The 2016 Crabbies Grand National Aintree Festival starts on Thursday and this year, there is an additional interesting narrative in the pipeline as Irish trainer Willie Mullins bids to secure a first and historic Trainers Championship from under the nose of Paul Nicholls.
The big guns from Closutton will be on show from the off on Day One (Grand Opening Day) with Djakadam, Vautour and Don Poli all entered to take on Cue Card in the Grade 1 Aintree Bowl. Djakadam once again proved himself a top class staying chaser by finishing second in the Gold Cup, with Don Poli running on back in third. Vautour was simply stunning in his winning of the Ryanair Chase and could run in the Melling Chase.
Champion Hurdle winner Annie Power will be long odds-on to win the Aintree Hurdle on Thursday, where her stablemate Nichols Canyon and My Tent Or Yours look her only realistic dangers. He was sublime at Cheltenham and the step up in distance here is hardly going to inconvenience the great mare.
On Friday (Ladies Day), the aforementioned Vautour is the one to beat in the Melling Chase, with Al Ferof second best in the market. At big prices, Saphir Du Rheu and God’s Own will have each way supporters with the track and ground to suit. RSA Chase winner Blacklion is a big fancy for the Mildmay Novices’ Chase, but the Mullins trained Shaneshill could put the cat among the pigeons. If there is one banker on Friday, it is in the shape of Alan King’s Yanworth, who can leave behind his Neptune effort with a win here.
On Saturday, the Crabbies Grand National is the main event of the day and all eyes will be on Many Clouds as he bids for an historic repeat victory in the race. Can he do it? Absolutely, with a little luck in running. The Last Samuri is a popular pick among the Grand National tipsters and form experts, while last year’s second Saint Are is expected to go well again. Earlier on in the day, watch out for Thistlecrack, will put a cap on a staggeringly impressive season in the Liverpool Hurdle.
Aintree Horses To Note