On the eve of the 2019 Grand National Festival, we take a look ahead at the first day of racing where there is a stellar line up of racing forecast to take place at Aintree over the next three days.
The 2019 Grand National Festival kicks off in a stylish fashion with the opening race being the Grade 1, Devenish Manifesto Novices’ Chase which is run over two miles and four furlongs, where just six horses are set to go to post.
Warren Greatrex-trained La Bague Au Roi is set to be partnered by Richard Johnson and is the clear ante-post favourite.
The eight-year-old mare is a clear leading favourite for more than one reason. With four out of four wins over fences, the daughter of Doctor Dino has 2 previous Grade 1 titles to her name. On her last outing she won the Flogas Novice Chase at Leopardstown great style.
Another horse likely to give connections a run for their money is Glen Forsa. The seven-year-old who is trained by Mick Channon, Glen Forsa was a name that punters placed high hopes for last month’s Cheltenham Festival in the Racing Post Arkle but unfortunately unseated his rider.
Previous to this, the son of Mahler had three out of three wins over fences and will certainly be one to watch at an each way price.
Gordon Elliott has just one entry among the field, Mengli Khan who is set to be ridden by Jack Kennedy. The six-year-old comes off the back of a cracking run in the JLT where he finished in third place. This was the son of Lope De Vega’s first run at the distance of two miles and four furlongs and so this shaper test may suit him.
Selection: Glen Forsa
The Doom Bar Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle has nine horses set to go to post and is run over a distance of two miles and one furlong.
Joseph O’Brien’s trained Band Of Outlaws comes off the back of an impressive performance at the Cheltenham Festival where he saw off a field of 20 runners and also shrugged off a big weight to land the Fred Winter contest. The four-year-old is set to be ridden by JJ Slevin.
Nicky Henderson’s Pentland Hills is another runner coming off the back of a Cheltenham victory. Despite an early blunder he put on a great performance to win the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham. The four-year-old will be ridden by Nico de Boinville.
Paul Nicholls trained Christopher Wood who will be ridden by Harry Cobden is an interesting contender.
Nicholls has kept Flat recruit Christopher Wood away from the bright lights, clocking up easy wins at Fontwell and Newbury.
Interestingly, Nicholls already has Christopher Wood qualified for the £100,000 handicap at Sandown on April 28th.
Selection: Christopher Wood
The Betway Bowl Chase Grade 1 is run over three miles and one furlongs and welcomes six runners to post.
Paul Nicholls trained ante-post favourite Clan Des Obeaux will be the name racing fans and punters alike will be eager to watch and hear.
After following up his King George triumph with a dominant display in the rescheduled Denman Chase at Ascot, the seven-year-old was strongly favoured to provide his trainer with a joint record fifth Gold Cup success at last month’s Festival. Despite running a strong race, Clan Des Obeaux only managed to finish fifth.
Willie Mullins runs Kemboy who will be partnered with Ruby Walsh. The seven-year-old impressed over three miles last December and has shown great ability over fences. He will certainly give Clan Des Obeaux strong competition alongside the rest of the field.
The Noel Meadetrained Road To Respect will be ridden by Sean Flanagan and has some impressive victories to his name. The eight-year-old put on an impressive performance to finish third in the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham last month. Connections will be hopeful the son of Gamut will be able to make all the running this time around.
This Grade 1 contest sees former dual Champion hurdler Buveur D’air on a retrieval mission with Nicky Henderson’s charge having come to grief early on when trying the land the hat-trick last month. He took this particular contest back in 2017 and looks the one to beat.
Willie Mullins is strongly represented by former Champion hurdler Faugheen who finished third in the Stayers’ behind Paisley Park at Cheltenham and dual Champion Hurdle runner-up Melon. Both horses hold strong chances but Faugheen has questions to answer dropping back in trip.
Of the remainder, Verdana Blue doesn’t have to improve much to feature and she has already claimed the scalp of Buveur D’air this season.
Selection: Buveur D’air
The Foxhunters’ is always a great spectacle and gives everyone a taste of what’s to come in the big one on Saturday. It often pays to follow the leading amateur rider in this so we will start with last seasons’ winning jockey Derek O’Connor who partners Burning Ambition. Rob James would normal partner this horse who is one of Ireland’s leading hunter chasers but he’s banned at present and it’s interesting that Derek has jumped ship from last year’s winner Balnaslow to ride him.
Dineur is another previous winner of this having won it back in 2017 off an 11 pound higher mark. In truth, the slide in his rating is justifiable and he’ll need the return to this track to park some improvement.
One of the more obvious runners is Ucello Conti who was well fancied to take the Foxhunters’ at Cheltenham but ultimately disappointing finishing back in fifth. Gordon Elliott’s runner has form figures of “64FF” over the National fences but holds a big chance of adding a “1” to that this time around.
Others of note include former graded performer Road To Riches who recorded a first victory for owner/rider David Maxwell at Carlise most recently and if recapturing his best form then he’d have a chance. Finally, the form figures of Kruzhlinin catches the eye with Gordon’ horse having won his last four starts in point to pints and has course form.
Selection: Ucello Conti
Eamon An Cnoic who is trained by David Pipe will be a strong contender. The eight-year-old is set to be ridden by Tom Scudamore and the drop back in trip may just suit the son of Westerner. On his last outing, he finished fourth in the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
With a large field, there will certainly be horses eager to give the ante-post favourite strong competition.
Philip Kirby-trained Lady Buttons will be partnered by Thomas Dowson. The nine-year-old was up against tough competition in the OBLG Mares Hurdle at Cheltenham last month but put on a good show to finish fourth. However this contest may be sharp enough as it will only be her second run over fences this season.
Other names to keep an eye on include Nicky Headerson-trained Whatswrongwithyou and Dan Skelton’s Azzuri.
Selection: Lady Buttons
The final race of the first day of the Festival is the Goffs UK Nickel Coin Mares’ Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race. Run over two miles and one furlong, the Grade 2 welcomes horses ages four years to six years. A full field of 20 runners are set to go to post.
Minella Melody is a name that stands out on the list of entries. Trained by Henry De Bromhead, the five-year-old is set to be ridden by Patrick Mullins.
With ground conditions set to be soft, it is the ideal ground situation for this mare. Although one may question her lack of runs, she has won on her two starts – winning both contests by double digit lengths! The daughter of Flemensfirth will be the one to beat.
Alan King holds a double on the card with The Glancing Queen and Giving Back.
The Glancing Queen will be one to watch at an each way price. The five-year-old finished fifth in the bumper at Cheltenham last month and connections will be hoping she will improve from this to make all the running at Aintree.
Gordon Elliott brings just one entry to the card – Daylight Katie. The six-year-old comes off the back of an impressive win at Gowran Park in February. And Mr. Elliott speaks highly of the daughter of Bondon Rose.
Others to consider are Misty Whisky who is trained by Harry Fry and Dan Skelton’s Emmas Joy.
Selection: Minella Melody