After its cancellation last season due to COVID-19, the Grand National Festival makes its long-awaited return.
With owners now allowed back on track, several star runners could well be making the trip to Liverpool in less than a fortnight.
Some of those contenders would have run at the prestigious Cheltenham Festival but were in the unlucky many not to land success.
Here are five runners that could bounce back to winnings ways at Aintree next month.
ADMIREL – Doom Bar Sefton Novices’ Hurdle/Mersey Novices’ Hurdle
Admirel grabbed the headlines when he gave trainer Tom Lacey his first Grade 2 success in the Leamington Novices’ Hurdle at Warwick in January, beating Jennie Candlish’s Mint Condition by a neck.
However, the six-year-old was disappointing on his Cheltenham appearance earlier this month, after fading away in the late stages and eventually being pulled up in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle.
The Herefordshire trainer has stated his intent in running his star talent in either the Sefton or the Mersey Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree, with the knowledge that his gelding could compete in either contest.
One to watch out for during the Grand National Festival.
Read Tom Lacey’s interview with our sister website, aintree.co.uk. available here.
FUSIL RAFFLES – Manifesto Novices’ Chase
Runner-up behind stablemate Chantry House in the Marsh Novices’ Chase, Fusil Raffles could follow up that strong performance with a victory at Aintree.
The six-year-old has made promising progress this season, winning three of his four starts before heading to the Festival.
Nicky Henderson was ‘dying’ to step him up to two and a half miles, and he has proven his potential with a win and a place at that distance.
Fusil Raffles could well be entered into the Manifesto Novices’ Chase, which would massively suit him here.
THE BIG BREAKAWAY – Mildmay Novices’ Chase
Considered as the yard’s best chance of Cheltenham success by assistant trainer Joe Tizzard, The Big Breakaway finished third in the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase behind Gold Cup prospect Monkfish and stablemate Fiddlerontheroof.
The six-year-old has shown to have plenty of potential and he could land his first Grade 1 in the form of the Mildmay Novices’ Chase.
Five of the last eight winners contested the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase while 15 of the past 18 victors ran at the Cheltenham Festival, which The Big Breakaway has done this season.
If Colin Tizzard’s gelding can continue to improve, then he could well be in the mix here.
NATIVE RIVER – Betway Bowl
Another runner from the Tizzard yard, the former Gold Cup winner ran a creditable fourth in this year’s renewal at the Cheltenham Festival.
The 11-year-old is set to finish the season at Aintree, with the hope of landing success in the Grade 1 Betway Bowl.
The veteran has won at the Grand National meeting before, claiming the Mildmay Novices’ Chase back in 2016.
However, it will be ground dependent on whether Native River runs here, so do not expect him to be declared if the ground continues to dry up.
BOB AND CO – Foxhunters’ Open Hunters’ Chase
Bob And Co was unfortunate to unseat his rider at Cheltenham, but he could bounce back at Aintree’s edition of the Foxhunters’.
The 10-year-old is yet to taste defeat in hunter chases that are at a distance of 2m6f or shorter, and he could well continue that run here.
The unique Aintree fences will be a new challenge for Paul Nicholls’ runner but if he takes to them well, Bob And Co could be a real threat in this contest.