The Aintree action begins in earnest on Thursday afternoon with seven top draw races from Merseyside.
Gold Cup runner-up Might Bite is the pick of the runners in the Aintree Bowl, while the Manifesto Novices’ Chase and the Aintree Hurdle kick-start an exciting three days of racing in the North-West.
We’ve run the rule over all the runners and come up with seven selections for you to mark your card with on day one at Aintree…
1:45 Mildmay Novices’ Chase – Brain Power
Brain Power was the best of the rest as Footpad ran away with the Arkle at Cheltenham last month.
Nicky Henderson’s raider looked to be back to something near his best at Prestbury Park after disappointing runs at Ascot and Sandown either side of Christmas.
There are questions over whether he can stay the extended 2m4f trip.
But on Festival evidence, and with a lesser standard of opposition to take on here, we think the seven-year-old should justify his position at the top of the market.
2:20 Doom Bar Juvenile Hurdle – We Have A Dream
Apple’s Shakira was handily beaten in her first Grade 1 start at Cheltenham. So we think it makes sense to oppose the jolly here with We Have A Dream.
The four-year-old is Nicky Henderson’s second runner in the race and could complete a five-timer at Aintree with victory over the 2m1f distance.
He’s unbeaten in Britain (including a Grade 1 success) and will go fresh after missing last month’s Gloucestershire meeting. That should hold him in good stead and with the ground not an issue the four-year-old gets the nod as our NAP of the Day.
2:50 Aintree Bowl – Tea For Two (each-way)
Might Bite is the obvious favourite for this one after a stellar season which most recently saw the raider finish runner-up in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
So we’re looking for the each-way value with Tea For Two. Nick Williams’ charge won this contest at similar odds last year and hit the frame in the King George VI Chase on Boxing Day.
Our trader Matt Trounce thinks the Aintree Bowl has always been his aim, especially after an easy ride in the Gold Cup. And we’re inclined to agree.
3:25 Aintree Hurdle – Supasundae
When Supasundae met The New One at Cheltenham a month ago he beat the 11-year-old raider by 16l.
Fellow contender My Tent Or Yours saw off The New One by just over 1l when they met in December.
Put those two form lines together and it suggests that Supasundae is a class above his contenders in the Aintree Hurdle.
Jessica Harrington’s runner has been the bridesmaid on more than one occasion, including in the Stayers’ Hurdle last month. But we think that today could be his day.
4:05 Foxhunters’ Open Hunters’ Chase – Wonderful Charm
Wonderful Charm will take a hefty drop back in trip for this one as he bids to land Paul Nicholls with a first Foxhunters’ success since 2002.
The 10-year-old completed the Grand National course last year, and with the ground more in his favour than at Cheltenham, connections are expecting an improved performance.
4:40 Red Rum Handicap Chase – Gino Trail
Gino Trail ticks all of the boxes required to land this Grade 3 two-miler.
He’s progressive, will love the ground and only narrowly missed out over a similar distance in the Grand Annual Chase at Cheltenham last month.
Jamie Moore produced a front-running ride that day. If he goes in a similar way at Aintree, he’s sure to be amongst it.
5:15 Goffs Nickel Coin Mares’ Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race – Dunhallow Gesture
After a nice break, Dunhallow Gesture should go well in his first try at black-type level.
The selection was two from two over in Ireland last year and began his career on these shores with an impressive 2l victory in Listed company at Huntingdon on Boxing Day.
He stayed on strongly that day for Anthony Honeyball. So the extra furlong put in front of him here should provide no bother.
There’s a lot to like about the six-year-old. And he gets our backing in the final race of the day.
All Odds and Markets correct as of date of publication