British Horseracing Authority chief executive Julie Harrington has expressed her delight at the positive response to this week’s new HorsePWR campaign relating to welfare in racing.

Encouraging feedback has flooded in from various sectors of the sport, with trainers, jockeys, breeders, owners and media representatives welcoming the initiative.

HorsePWR has its own dedicated website to provide information about the sport and the thoroughbred, the lives they lead and the high welfare and safety standards within racing.

In a statement on, Harrington said: “The response to our HorsePWR campaign is unprecedented for racing. For the industry to rally behind this cause with such full-throated support is immensely heartening.

“We deliberately took a bold and innovative approach to tackling welfare concerns fully aware that it carried a risk of a negative response in some quarters.

“But the way the sport has readily embraced this new concept shows just how much everyone in it recognises that perceptions around welfare are a critical issue for our future.

“It also shows that we recognise the need to be open, transparent and to tackle welfare concerns head-on.

“We should have confidence in what we do and understand that it is through education and information that we will build trust in the sport.

“We are extremely grateful to all the organisations and individuals who have supported the campaign.

“This is just the start and it is important to recognise that the impact campaigns have should never be judged on one day alone.

“We want to grow the campaign and use it to reach wider audiences. We also call on the sport to continue to promote and support the campaign as much as possible. It is in everyone’s best interest to do so.”

The website explores the areas that racing has committed to improve, such as the lives horses go on to have after racing, reducing risk on and off course and facts surrounding the whip.

Intinso will bid to follow up his successful comeback when lining up in the Virgin Bet Every Saturday Money Back Rosebery Handicap at Kempton.

Connections had high expectations for the John and Thady Gosden-trained four-year-old at the beginning of last season, starting his year off in the Feilden Stakes after a successful debut on the synthetics at Newcastle late on during his juvenile days.

Although he failed to add to his tally at three, he produced some encouraging displays and, having been gelded over the winter, the son of Siyouni impressed on his return at Wolverhampton last month.

Hopes are now raised that Intinso can continue on an upward curve and provide his Clarehaven training team with a first triumph in the £100,000 contest.

“He’s been in good form and he made a nice comfortable comeback win after being gelded,” said Teddy Grimthorpe, racing manager for owner-breeder Imad Alsagar

“He has always actually been held in quite high regard by John and he’s been very straightforward moving into the race. This will be a major test, but he ran really well at York and in the Shergar Cup.

“We know he can handle the surface and we’re looking for a good run. Hopefully he will develop into a nice staying horse.”

Intinso is disputing matters at the top of the market with Andrew Balding’s Old Harrovian, who created a taking impression on the all-weather last spring before going on to run in Group Three company.

He returns from almost a year off with Oisin Murphy in the saddle, while Ed Bethell is optimistic Chillingham can build on a consistent 2023 campaign.

He said: “Hopefully he will run well. Dropping back a furlong wouldn’t be the best thing, but we have our fingers crossed he can run a nice race.

“He’s been a decent horse and danced a few dances now. Hopefully he’s freshened up over the winter and we can have a good season with him.”

Cannon Rock looked a stayer on the rise when breaking his maiden in good style at Newmarket two years ago.

Purchased out of Charlie Appleby’s yard by James Owen since, he has been seen just the once in the following 535 days, returning from a long lay-off to win readily at Southwell last month.

The Fastnet Rock gelding now faces an acid test of his potential, as he attempts to back up that Rolleston victory and provide his handler with a notable feather in his cap early on in his bourgeoning training career.

“He was bought to go juvenile hurdling actually, but he is just not a soft ground horse basically, so we’ve been waiting and waiting,” said Owen.

“We ran him at Southwell and he did surprise us a little bit. He had won a Newmarket maiden and then met with a setback which allowed us to buy him. He is all over that now, which he proved at Southwell, and he’s trained great since and worked very well.

“This is probably throwing him in at the deep end a little bit but it’s very good prize-money and I think this will show us where we are.

“He’s been drawn really well and we’ve put the cheekpieces back on him basically to help him be a bit more streetwise. They were on him when he won his maiden and I just thought we’d put them on, as it’s a really good prize and we want to give it our best chance.

“He’s fit and ready to go and I think he could run a massive race – he shows a lot of ability at home.”

Meanwhile, George Baker is hoping the Swiss air of St. Moritz can help Cemhaan produce his best, with the highest-rated runner in the field twice a winner in the past at the Sunbury venue.

A regular in these high-quality middle-distance events, his handler is now looking forward to what he can produce as he continues to fly the flag for his stable.

“He’s been a star for us and he actually had an aborted trip to St. Moritz recently, but he has come back off the mountain in good form and we are very happy with him,” said Baker.

“Sadly, the racing didn’t happen up the mountain, so he went all the way over there, had a bit of fresh air and came home. He’s going from the snow to the all-weather but he’s got plenty of decent form on the surface and we have our fingers firmly crossed he runs a big race for us.

“It’s obviously a hugely competitive race and he’s got a lot of weight as well, but he’s in good order and we’re looking forward to it.”

William Haggas’ Mystic Pearl has another Listed strike in her sights in the Snowdrop Fillies’ Stakes at Kempton.

The four-year-old was a winner at this level in the Coral Distaff at Sandown last year and after a Group Three placing in the Prix de Lieurey at Deauville, she headed out to Dubai for the winter.

There she was sixth in the Cape Verdi and fourth in the Balanchine, both at Group Two level, and now she steps back down in grade to start her domestic campaign on the all-weather.

“She’s back in a Listed race, like the one she won at Sandown,” said Philip Robinson, assistant racing manager for owner Sheikh Juma Dalmook Al Maktoum.

“The two races she ran in out in Meydan were both Group Twos, so we’re dropping back down in class. She worked very nicely last week, so we’re very hopeful.

“She will give a good account of herself I think, and they don’t always act when they go out there (Dubai), they either do or they don’t. I don’t think she was at her best out there, but she worked nicely the other morning anyway.”

James Ferguson’s Many Tears makes a first start for her new stable in the contest after leaving Ger Lyons on a high note.

For Lyons, she was a Listed winner at Dundalk in November when taking the Cooley Fillies Stakes, a victory that leaves her shouldering a penalty at Kempton.

Ferguson said: “She’s in great form and won a Listed race with Ger Lyons, so carries a penalty, but she seems to be training well and this is only the start of her year, so we’re hoping she runs big and we have then got the whole year ahead of us.

“She’s a nice filly and was bought by the Cunninghams to try and get some more black type in Europe, with the eventual plan to maybe be covered and then go down to Australia.”

Ferguson has another contender in the race in Mother Mary, whereas the only Irish challenger is the Joseph O’Brien-trained Adelaise.

Only beaten three-quarters of a length in the Prix Dahlia at Saint-Cloud and then two lengths in the Prix Casimir Delamarre at Longchamp, both Listed races, Adelaise is looking to gain some black type form in the Snowdrop.

O’Brien said: “She’s been a progressive filly for us last season and she has stayed in training with the hope of achieving some black type. This looks a logical starting point for her.”

Simon and Ed Crisford run Choisya in the race, a Night Of Thunder filly last seen winning over course and distance in a handicap ahead of Roger Varian’s Julia Augusta, who reopposes.

Philip McBride’s Zouky, David Menuisier’s Mysterious Love, Gemma Tutty’s in-form Enola Grey and Ed Walker’s Rose Prick complete the field of 10.

David Maxwell has been living out his dream, buying nice horses and getting to ride them himself – but it will peak when he lines up in the Randox Grand National on Ain’t That A Shame.

Like many involved in the sport, the Grand National is seen as the pinnacle to Maxwell but for a man viewed as an old-fashioned Corinthian amateur, it is a summit his family has already scaled, at least in one capacity.

The 1988 Grand National won by Rhyme ‘N’ Reason is one of the more famous ones, given how he almost fell at Becher’s Brook on the first circuit only to work his way back into contention under Brendan Powell.

For the Maxwell family, it was an emotional and stressful day, as the property developer explained: “My main Grand National memory is Rhyme ‘N’ Reason. My mother bred the horse, then my dad trained him for his first bumper wins before he went to England to be trained by David Murray Smith and latterly David Elsworth.

“I remember it like it was yesterday. He was headed in the closing stages by Durham Edition, but he was a bit of an old rogue and as soon as he hit the front, he felt like he’d done enough – and Rhyme ‘N’ Reason was as game as a badger and won by four lengths.

“The entire Maxwell family were screaming their heads off, my mother was nine months pregnant with my now 35-year-old sister. Just 10 minutes after the race, the gynaecologist was sitting next to her!

“He actually broke three bones in his hock when he almost came down at Becher’s and he never raced again but it just goes to show how game he was.”

Maxwell has come close to glory over the famous fences already, and while it was not in the National, his second place on Cat Tiger in the 2022 Foxhunters’ should at least give him some confidence down at the start.

“Cat Tiger pings round there and was second to Latenightpass in the Foxhunters’ – and of course Latenightpass is in the National this year,” said Maxwell.

“He’s not over-big but he’s very game. The Foxhunters’ is actually the only race I’ve been down at the start thinking ‘this might not actually be a good idea’, but then you get called in, do a slap down the shoulder, as much for yourself as the horse, and just get on with it.”

There has been plenty said about Maxwell’s participation in this year’s race but having met all the requirements, and after amateur Sam Waley-Cohen’s win on Noble Yeats two years ago, there is still the fairytale element to the race that no other has.

“Racing for me has been a bit of a middle-aged man obsession. I started mucking around with point-to-pointers in my late 20s, then I got a few more and got a few more and just kept going. You keep finding the next iteration of the drug,” said Maxwell.

“It starts with what turns out to be slow three-mile chasers for pointing, then someone shows you a nice hunter chaser, then it’s novice hurdlers, so there’s another stage of everything, like being allowed to ride against pros. I suppose the ultimate of it all is riding in the National.

“I don’t know if there’s anything in the theory of amateurs having a good record in it because some liken it to hunting. My theory is, if you are in the National, you can win it, all the cards are thrown in the air.”

Every year there are meetings to see what can be done to make the race safer and following last year’s disruption, racing was forced into defensive mode more than it ever has in the past, but the 45-year-old believes the right steps have been taken.

“I wouldn’t say anything can happen anymore, as they’ve made it safer to navigate with the fences and they’ve made it more and more like a really good Saturday handicap,” said Maxwell.

“With that, I mean Corach Rambler is 4-1 favourite and he never looks like not winning, it’s less and less like Foinavon could win this – but you do still get rank outsiders winning.

“This year, there are three amateurs in the race, so there’s around a nine per cent chance of an amateur winning it.

“The race has changed, you’ve got to have a touch of class now. But the world changes all the time.

“In racing, we are fond of knocking ourselves but racing has done a really good job here of making it safer. Every year, a lot of thought goes into it and this year it is no exception, with the field reduced to 34 and perhaps the best idea is making the run to the first fence shorter.

“Nobody wants to see fallers, we’re all animal lovers, so these changes make it a bit safer, there’s no point us continuing with our head in the sand.

“If we proceed thinking the world is the same as it was before – it’s not. It’s right that the Jockey Club and the BHA have made these changes to make the race safer.

“If you have a horse who is a safe conveyance and stays four miles, the likelihood is these days that you will get round – and then you get the situation where the best handicapped horse wins.”

Maxwell’s mount, trained in Ireland by Henry de Bromhead, who has won the National with Minella Times, has already won one of Ireland’s most competitive races, the Thyestes Chase.

“He’s a nice horse, I went and schooled him last week and he’s a lovely horse. He must have a reasonable chance but I’m actually looking forward to going hunter chasing with him the year after next when he’s 12,” said Maxwell.

“The Thyestes is always a good race and the fact that he didn’t go to Cheltenham must stand him in good stead too.

“It’s clearly going to be soft ground and obviously we all hope it doesn’t rain too much, but what we really would want is for it to stop raining about three days before the race, as then the ground would start becoming really hard work. If it’s just wet and sloppy, then it’s much easier to get through it.”

Latenightpass could prove appropriately named if justifying Tom Ellis’ last-minute decision to join the professional training ranks in search of Randox Grand National victory.

A stalwart of the point-to-point scene, Ellis of course knows all about Latenightpass. Bred by his mother Pippa, the diminutive 11-year-old is part of the furniture at the handler’s Warwickshire base and with his wife Gina Andrews in the saddle, the trainer has shepherded a career that has yielded many special memories for the family.

Loaned to best friend Dan Skelton so his wife could fulfil her ambition of riding in the cross-country races at Cheltenham, success in that sphere – when downing Aintree rivals Minella Indo and Galvin in December – saw Grand National ambitions suddenly become more than just a dream.

The lure of a National runner in his own name proved too much to resist for the five-times national champion between the flags, with Ellis deciding to walk away from the pointing field that has long been his life to hastily ensure his name is listed against Latenightpass on the Aintree racecard.

He said: “It was definitely bittersweet to a point, going professional. Point-to-pointing has been a part of my life since the age of 16 really and has been very good to me.

“It’s taught me everything I know, I met my wife through it, we’ve built a good business through it and it has literally been everything to us. It’s what we’ve spent every weekend doing for the last 24 years, so it is sad to think I had my last runner at Brafield-On-The-Green the other weekend and it was the end of an era really.

“But however long I trained for, I doubt we will ever have another Grand National runner bred by my mother and ridden by my wife, so it made sense to try.

“We’ll give everything we can to this next chapter now and Gina is going to continue doing some of the pointers in her name and it would just be really nice if we could build on the success we’ve had in the point-to-point field and transfer that to the professional world.”

In a year lacking the traditional Aintree fairytale, a decorated point-to-point champion turning professional to saddle a horse owned by his mother and ridden by his wife is just the sort of story which captures the imagination on the day the nation goes to the races.

The Grand National can be very much a family affair and Ellis will not be the first husband to give his wife the leg-up in the race.

In recent years, Katie Walsh partnered Ross O’Sullivan’s Baie Des Iles to finish 12th in 2017 and Carrie Ford famously teamed up with her then husband Richard when fifth aboard Forest Gunner in 2005.

However, whereas Walsh’s best finishing position over the Grand National obstacles is third, like Ford, Andrews has tasted success over the big fences at Aintree and her husband is relishing the moment she tackles the famous spruce once again in the world’s most famous steeplechase.

“I’ll get some buzz out of it,” said Ellis. “I would love winning a maiden point-to-point with Gina on, so I will get some buzz watching a National with Gina in it definitely.

“I think anyone who has a connection to anyone in any race will get more of a buzz watching and we’re very privileged to be a part of the horse.

“Of course the nerves will build as the National gets closer, but in terms of Gina riding, I’m used to that.

“I watch it happen every weekend and I get more nervous if Gina is riding for other people than when she rides for us, because she knows our horses inside out and we would only run them if they have been well prepared or schooled well.

“If it’s someone I don’t know or a horse I don’t know, that’s more nerve-racking for me than watching her ride in a National I would say.”

Although this will be a first Grand National runner for Ellis, Andrews and Latenightpass, they are in fact seasoned regulars at Aintree competing over the National course.

In three appearances in the Aintree Foxhunters’, Latenightpass has finished no worse than fourth – when far from his best 12 months ago – and had previously finished second in 2021 before landing the spoils a year later.

Always among the favourites for that amateur riders’ contest, it is an annual feature for Ellis to be training Latenightpass with one day in April in mind, and this time around he is simply switching focus to a race over an extra circuit of the Merseyside venue.

“I don’t get nervous as I’m used to it and we’ve been to three Aintree Festivals with him now,” added Ellis

“Everyone says to me ‘are you nervous’ and it sounds really weird but I don’t think I’m feeling as much pressure with him this year as I have the previous two years to be honest.

“Two years ago we were going there on the back of being second the year before and there was an expectation, probably on our own part, to run well. You were going there thinking he had a good chance and he obviously did and won.

“Last year we went there as defending champion and to be honest, we had a horrible run up to the race. We never had him right all season for whatever reason that was and we went there thinking ‘I hope he runs all right’ because everything hadn’t gone positive on our own part. He ran all right luckily, but I still think he ran a stone below his best that day.”

“But I cannot have any expectations this time and I can’t expect to win the National.”

Ellis may not expect to take home the Grand National trophy, but the general 20-1 shot could inadvertently play a significant role in deciding the destination of the trainers’ championship.

Having helped Latenightpass navigate the opening two-thirds of the season, a share of the Grand National’s £1million prize-fund would have been a significant boost to Skelton in his battle with former boss Paul Nicholls.

Ellis is now faced with the prospect of fulfilling his own dreams while preventing one of his oldest friends from accomplishing one of his own long-held ambitions.

He said: “I suppose the worst thing that could happen is if Latenightpass runs well in the National and Dan just misses out in the trainers’ championship, that would just take the edge off it slightly for me.

“It’s very good of Dan to have done what he has this year and I owe him an awful lot for that. At the end of the day, he’s my best mate and I would love to see him get his first title on the board.

“We were at school together literally a mile away from where my yard is now and we spent a lot of time together as kids growing up. We used to come home from school at lunchtimes and ride out two point-to-pointers I had in training and school them over fences and then go back to school in the afternoon.

“We grew up watching racing together and it’s great to have him as a mate to call on, definitely.”

Skelton will be back in his role of supportive best pal when Ellis – having won the race against time to ensure he is officially recognised as the gelding’s trainer – heads to the pre-parade to saddle up on April 13.

And with trainer modules and required paperwork now taken care of, the latest member of the training ranks can now look forward to Latenightpass’ shot at Aintree immortality with excitement.

“He’s in very good form and I couldn’t be happier with him at the moment. We’re nearly there really and so far we’ve had a nice run with him,” said Ellis.

“I got my modules done and then everything was quite tight time-wise as he needed to be in training with me 16 days before the National, which he has been. The British Horseracing Authority has been very helpful and worked with us well on that. I’ve got everything done and ticked all the right boxes hopefully.

“I hope he runs well and I think with a clear round and a bit of luck, he will be there or thereabouts turning in.

“After that it will be whether he is good enough really, so I’m just really enjoying the build up with him this time and I’m not feeling any nerves or pressure with him, as daft as it sounds. That might change nearer the day I imagine.

“Let’s hope we can do it for England because we don’t have many chances do we! It looks like complete Irish domination once again, but we’ll see and we’ll be giving it our best shot anyway.”

As a Randox Grand National winner Corach Rambler’s place in racing history is already assured. But superstar status awaits if he can make it back-to-back victories at Aintree.

A relatively inexpensive purchase at £17,000 from the Irish point-to-point field, the 10-year-old has given his trainer and the seven members of The Ramblers syndicate the ride of their lives.

Seven wins from 16 starts is admirable rather than amazing, but successive wins in the Ultima Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival followed by success in the world’s most famous steeplechase on Merseyside 12 months ago mean he has achieved far more than his connections could ever have dreamed of.

The current campaign got off to a poor start at Kelso, but a distant third in Haydock’s Betfair Chase suggested the tank was not empty and Corach Rambler hammered home that theory when picking up the bronze medal again in last month’s Cheltenham Gold Cup, much to the delight of his proud trainer.

“We set him quite a stiff task (in the Gold Cup) really, but we wanted to give him a run and the timing works well for Aintree,” she said.

“I was absolutely delighted with the way he ran, to be third in a Gold Cup is fantastic in itself, whether you’re looking at the National or not.

“We were really pleased and I was actually quite touched as the reception he got from the crowd around the parade ring was amazing. He’s phenomenal and absolutely deserves it.”

There is just over four weeks between the Gold Cup and Grand National and Russell could not be happier with how Corach Rambler has both recovered and subsequently prepared for his return to Merseyside.

“It was a great run at Cheltenham and we were delighted, but at the same time we couldn’t rest on laurels at all as we had to get ready for Aintree,” she said.

“He had a nice, quiet 10 days. Normally we just give them a week, but we gave him a little bit longer after Cheltenham as the ground was a little bit soft for him that day.

“Time seems to have passed very quickly, but everything has been going according to plan.”

Corach Rambler’s staying-on effort behind reigning champion Galopin Des Champs in the Gold Cup can be taken one of two ways.

While on the one hand it may be seen as the perfect preparation for the defence of his Aintree crown – certainly a line bookmakers have taken by slashing his odds for a Grand National repeat – others have questioned whether what the handicapper considered a career-best performance may leave a mark.

Russell appears to be in the former camp, adding: “I think back to last year when he won the Ultima and he certainly had a hard enough race there before going on and winning at Aintree.

“We’ll see what happens on the day, but I think the way he has felt since Cheltenham, Scu (Peter Scudamore, partner and assistant) has been very happy with him.”

Corach Rambler is out to emulate the great Tiger Roll and the legendary three-time winner Red Rum by winning two Grand Nationals in succession, while Russell is out to notch a third win, having also struck gold with One For Arthur in 2017.

The Kinross handler has also enjoyed Grade One success at the Grand National meeting in recent years with Ahoy Senor and Apple Away, so it is no surprise she holds the three-day fixture in high esteem.

“I’ve always loved Aintree and it’s very much in my heart,” she said.

“I love Liverpool and love the people there. They look after the horses and owners so well and it’s a track I like winning at.

“I always said I wanted Corach Rambler to go down in history, and he has gone down in history by winning the National once. If he could do it twice, it would really establish him as one of the great racehorses in the country.”

Mouse Morris has already been fortunate enough to win the Randox Grand National once with Rule The World in 2016. But that will not stop him dreaming of winning it again with Foxy Jacks.

Morris, known as a real target trainer and one of the most respected men in the game, had come close on numerous occasions before he hit the heights eight years ago.

Cahervillahow, who famously won a Whitbread Gold Cup but lost it in the stewards’ room, crossed the line second in 1993 but thankfully or not for connections that was the dreaded void race ‘won’ by Esha Ness.

Lastofthebrownies went close twice when fourth to Little Polveir and fifth to Mr Frisk while Attitude Adjuster also finished fifth behind Rhyme ‘N’ Reason in 1988.

As changes to the race began to be made at the turn of the century, though, Morris realised the requirements needed on the equine front had also changed.

“We sent some very nice horses to Aintree back in the 1980s and 90s, horses like Attitude Adjuster and Lastofthebrownies, real old-fashioned three-mile chasers,” said Morris.

“Look at Cahervillahow, now he was a really good horse but he wasn’t a Grade One horse, he was a top-class handicapper that suited races like the Whitbread and the National.

“Nowadays you have to send a different type to Aintree.”

So that is what Morris did. In 2015 he ran his multiple Grade One winner First Lieutenant, who might not quite have been the force of old but was still a fine racehorse.

“First Lieutenant was one of the best I’ve had. He won a Grade One over hurdles at Cheltenham beating a Champion Hurdle winner (Rock On Ruby), was second in an RSA (now Broadway) and was second in a Ryanair as well as winning other good races,” he said.

“We ran him in it as a 10-year-old when he was just starting to struggle against the best, he made a couple of early mistakes and was on the back foot.”

The following year First Lieutenant was back for another go, joined by a stablemate who, despite running countless good races over fences, had incredibly yet to win one in 13 previous attempts.

Rule The World had finished second in the Irish National as a novice in 2015, but that was not out of the ordinary as novices do have a decent record in the Easter Monday Fairyhouse showpiece.

The following season a novice chase looked a formality but he kept on finding one or two too good and as both he and First Lieutenant were owned by Gigginstown House Stud, their retained jockey Bryan Cooper had a decision to make.

“I remember saying to Alastair Down (TV presenter and journalist) the night before I thought Bryan had picked the wrong one,” said Morris of Cooper’s decision to go for Rule The World.

“In fairness, he had won a Grade One at Aintree (the Bowl) on him so I suppose he was being loyal and it was hard to get off him.

“That didn’t meant I thought Rule The World was going to go and win, though. I thought he’d run well but he hadn’t won a race over fences before.”

Adding to Morris keeping his feet on the ground was the fact he had won the Irish National a month earlier with Rogue Angel and for a yard his size to win two of the biggest races of the season just did not happen.

All this emotion came on top of Morris tragically losing his eldest son Christopher (known as Tiffer) to carbon monoxide poisoning while on holiday in Argentina the previous year.

After Rule The World, under David Mullins, had galloped to a 33-1 success Morris said: “We got a bit of help from somewhere. Tiffer was working overtime for me.”

Reflecting on the win eight years later Morris said: “He’d always been a good horse but had his issues. He was Grade One class on his day.

“The race has changed now, you’ve got to have a bit of class about you, the old handicappers get left behind.

“I didn’t go there that day thinking he’d win, you can’t in a National, but I thought he had a chance of being in the money.”

This year’s contender from the yard, Foxy Jacks, has a different profile.

“If someone had told me this time last year Foxy Jacks would have 11st 3lb in a National I wouldn’t have believed it. I thought we’d have a job on to get him in the race.

“But he won the Midlands National at Kilbeggan in the summer and got hit hard for that and his big aim then was the Cross Country at Cheltenham in March so we took him there in November.

“He was poetry in motion that day, he absolutely loved it and while that was a handicap and the one in March is level weights, we were looking forward to it.

“He ran well over hurdles at Christmas but of course the Cross Country race was abandoned at Cheltenham. So, like a few of Gordon’s (Elliott, Delta Work, Coko Beach and Galvin) and Minella Indo, we are coming here fresh.

“Gavin Brouder gets a great tune out of him so he’ll ride him again. I can’t help thinking his handicap mark (157) is ridiculous but we’ll give it a crack anyway, the horse is in great form and has come right back to himself this year.”

They say the best thing about memories is making them and Patrick Mullins and his good friend and owner Paul Byrne will undoubtedly enjoy a special moment together when Mr Incredible takes a second crack at the Randox Grand National.

There will be a strong Mullins presence at Aintree for this year’s running of the world’s greatest steeplechase.

As well as Willie Mullins’ plethora of Grand National challengers, Emmet Mullins will be in town with 2022 National hero Noble Yeats, while Danny Mullins will be expected to receive the leg-up aboard one of the leading Closutton hopefuls.

Patrick Mullins could also be at the start line aboard Stattler – but half an eye will be looking across to Mr Incredible, the enigmatic eight-year-old with very much his own ideas about life.

Having arrived at Closutton on the back of refusing both at the start and then mid-race in consecutive outings, the Mr Incredible project seemed somewhat mission impossible.

But the apple does not fall far from the tree in County Carlow and the heir to the Closutton kingdom has conjured up some of his father’s wizardry to consistently deliver Mr Incredible to the start line both in top form and, most importantly, good spirits.

“He’s Patrick’s project and he pretty much trains him,” explained Byrne.

“If he did win, I would like to see him get the credit, as he does a lot with him. He deserves a lot of credit for even getting him to where he’s got him to. This was a write-off case to begin with

“He’s very frustrating and every day I get an update to say he consented on the gallop is good news. Every day is a battle with him, but he’s been fun to own and we’ve been lucky to own him.

“He does deserve to win the race, as he’s been some reformed character. He’s run very well every time for us and we just need to get a win into him, but the National would be a nice one to win.”

Mullins added: “He’s trained very differently to all the other horses and you have to do something different with him every day.

“Some days, he gets out of the wrong side of the bed and decides he’s not going to go at all, but you just need to work around him and he’s a horse with huge ability.”

Mr Incredible is one of a select number of horses trained by the Mullins team for Byrne – widely regarded as one of the shrewdest owners in the game and someone who has already had an influence on the history of the Aintree showpiece.

Alongside the genial Emmet Mullins, he first came up with the plan to aim the novice Noble Yeats towards Liverpool.

And although the cheque had already been cashed and the colours of Robert Waley-Cohen donned by the time his new owner’s son Sam was rounding the elbow, the first seven-year-old Grand National winner in 82 years had all the hallmarks of the Byrne/Mullins thinktank.

Byrne has again recently passed on the ownership of another leading National fancy, with Meetingofthewaters now in the famous green and gold of JP McManus.

However, he harbours few regrets about seeing his pale blue silks dispersed, at least at this stage of his ownership career.

“We have our fingerprints over a few of them and it’s a fabulous race really – and one I would be looking to build a horse towards all the time,” explained Byrne.

“You have to be extremely wealthy to hold onto a horse of that value (a National contender) and where I’m at with my age, I would love to, but at the stage where I’m at in my career, it’s too early to hold onto a horse of that value.

“With all the best luck and best will in the world, I would love to see them go on and do well for whoever buys them. I would be over the moon if any of them could win.”

Mullins also has fond memories of the Merseyside marathon and was only a teenager when his father joined the National roll of honour with Hedgehunter in 2005.

He has since seen his cousins David and Emmet both enjoy special days in the Aintree spotlight and for one split-second thought his own Liverpool dreams would come true on a day solely remembered by most for Rachael Blackmore’s heroics aboard Minella Times.

He said: “There’s been some great days at Aintree, obviously Hedgehunter and then David on Rule The World and Emmet with Noble Yeats. I got a super spin on Burrows Saint the other year behind Rachael Blackmore, which was also a special year as well.

“Crossing the Melling Road, I was taking a pull and for a couple of moments I thought I might win it. But once we had to go up a gear down to the second last, that dream evaporated pretty quickly unfortunately.”

Now he has the chance to dream again and is relishing a return to Aintree with some of the Closutton squad he knows well.

He added: “I think Paul enjoys having Mr Incredible and it would be great if we could get a win with him, that would be magic. Myself and Paul have been friends since we were teenagers and he’s a great person to work with and get on with and we’ve been very lucky together.

“We’ve got Meetingofthewaters there as well, which is another one of my projects and I owned him at the start of the season, so I’m really looking forward to the race this year.”

But what of Mr Incredible’s chances? Sent off at 14-1 last year, he was in the ideal position before disaster struck and rider Brian Hayes’ saddle slipped rounding the Canal Turn for the second time.

The enigmatic eight-year-old seemed to relish the unique challenge of the Grand National course in 2023, but faces a further test of his mettle this time around, with a standing start to overcome, giving Mr Incredible the opportunity to repeat misdemeanours of old.

However, if overcoming that brand-new 31st obstacle, then an encouraging prep when second in the Midlands Grand National would suggest a bold second Aintree bid is on the cards.

“He’s been very well behaved on the track last season and at Uttoxeter,” explained Mullins.

“It’s a standing start this year in the National and I don’t know if that is a good thing or a bad thing. We’ll find out on the day and hopefully it won’t negatively affect him.

“Brian said he really enjoyed the track, jumped really well, just the second time round at the Canal Turn, when he had him in a nice position, his saddle slipped. So we decided we would try to get him back and have another go, because he’s not an old horse.

“It was a huge run at Uttoxeter under that weight for a first run of the season. He should come forward for it and he’s going to be at the other end of the weights come the National, so if he puts his best foot forward, he has to have a super chance.”

Byrne concurs with his friend that Mr Incredible could be a major player, but also ponders if last year was his opportunity gone begging.

He said: “I think he has a chance and if we were able to train him properly, then he could be a Grade One horse, but we just can’t train him properly unfortunately.

“He’s creeping up the weights and he’s a bit more than last year. I just wonder how much he would have in hand off the mark, but he should improve fitness-wise for Uttoxeter.

“If he gets going, he will jump and will give a good account, but does he have the 10 or 12lb in hand you need to win that race? I don’t think he does.”

As for Byrne’s idea of the winner, he added: “For a modern-day National horse, a profile like Noble Yeats had is what you want – and I think Meetingofthewaters has that, he’s young and progressive.”

The old saying goes ‘if at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again’. For Vanillier this year’s Grand National represents a second bite at the Aintree cherry for Gavin Cromwell’s staying star, who found just Corach Rambler too good on his first attempt at National glory 12 months ago.

Cromwell has been a part of the training ranks for less than 20 years, but the former farrier is now firmly established as one of Ireland’s leading handlers. And also one of their most enterprising, striking many successful raids on his trips to UK shores.

Fresh from taking his tally at the Cheltenham Festival to six thanks to a Prestbury Park double, he now holds a strong hand as he attempts to land a telling blow in the Liverpool showpiece the Irish are queuing up to take a crack at.

“With always had it in mind to go back to Aintree with Vanillier after his second last year,” said Cromwell.

“He seems to hit form at this time of year and looks to be coming to hand nicely so we’re looking forward to it.

“We have the experience of jumping round and we knows he takes the track, which is important. He ran a huge race in the National last year so hopefully we can get some luck in running and we can be competitive.

“I’d say it’s every trainer’s dream to win the Grand National. My first time to come to the National was the year Bobbyjo won it and I went to school with Paul Carberry, so that was a big occasion and it’s the 25th anniversary this year.

“We’re thrilled to have a few runners in it. Obviously last year we got so close, but it would be fantastic to go one better and win it.”

Cromwell shod a National winner working as as farrier when his good friend Gordon Elliott’s Silver Birch galloped to Aintree glory.

However, his own involvement in the race has been limited to saddling the veteran Raz De Maree on two uneventful visits to Merseyside prior to Vanillier giving him the thrill of his life 12 months ago.

A Cheltenham winner in his own right, Vanillier had taken his time to live up to his Festival-winning exploits over hurdles since switching to fences. But a second to Kemboy in Fairyhouse’s Bobbyjo Chase highlighted his National credentials and Cromwell had him tuned to the minute for his big-race assignment.

Sent off 20-1, he stayed on stoutly late in the piece, and although Cromwell momentarily began to dream, Vanillier could never quite reel in Lucinda Russell’s impressive Corach Rambler.

Cromwell continued: “He probably got a bit far back on the second circuit and we would have liked to have been a bit closer from the Canal Turn. But he came home really strong and we were delighted.

“There was a moment we thought it might be possible, but Corach Rambler ran out a good winner and was probably idling a little bit in front. We were very happy with his performance, though.”

After being anonymous when running over inadequate stamina tests in the early part of the current season, the nine-year-old served notice of his Aintree intentions when second once again in the Bobbyjo Chase.

Despite pleasing his trainer, Vanillier’s outing in the Bobbyjo did unveil a foe all Aintree contenders will need to be wary of in stunning winner I Am Maximus, and Cromwell has the utmost respect for Willie Mullins Irish National winner, who has emerged as one of Vanillier’s chief market rivals.

Cromwell said: “I was happy with how Vanillier ran in the Bobbyjo, visually in the race he jumped and travelled really well and everything except for the result was very good.

“You’d have to say that I Am Maximus looked very good on the day and it was a big performance.

“You would have to be really impressed with I Am Maximus. He was very good and one you would have to be very afraid of on the day.”

As well as Vanillier’s obvious claims, the County Meath trainer could also have a hidden gem bubbling just below the main market principals in the form of Cheltenham Festival heroine Limerick Lace.

Owned by JP McManus, she has won three of her four starts this season, finishing second on the other occasion in a stamina-sapping renewal of the Troytown Chase.

No mare has won the Grand National since Nickle Coin in 1951 and although Magic Of Light came close in 2019 when chasing home Tiger Roll, Limerick Lace could have a standout chance of ending that long 73 year wait, arriving in Liverpool on the back of a career best when downing Dinoblue in the Cotswolds.

“She’s come out of Cheltenham really well and the plan is looking like we will go to the National,” said Cromwell.

“It’s an unknown for her with the trip, but I think she will stay well. She stayed on quite well in the Troytown Chase at Navan earlier in the season on bad ground.

“It is obviously her first time over the fences and a lot will depend on how she takes to it, but I would like to think she will be competitive. It’s an exciting time.”

Mahler Mission could make John McConnell’s dreams come true when the trainer ends his long wait to saddle a Randox Grand National runner at Aintree.

The County Meath handler sent out the ill-fated Fennor Cross to score during the Grand National meeting on Merseyside 12 months ago, but he is still to field a contender in the world’s most famous steeplechase.

McConnell’s Some Neck came agonisingly close to making the final line-up when first reserve in 2021, while 23-year-old jockey Ben Harvey also missed out on a first taste of the famous spruce on that occasion and is fulfilling Aintree ambitions a few years later than anticipated.

“If we get there it will be our first runner, so it will be a big day for us all,” said McConnell.

“We’re not going to change anything that’s not broken so Ben will ride him. Mahler Mission looks like he has the right kind of profile for it, so it will be exciting.

“It will probably be our biggest day, we’ve had a nice bit of success, but if we could pull this off it will be a huge moment in both our careers.

“He’s probably the best horse I’ve had and in terms of rating he is anyway. I do think we haven’t yet seen the best of him and for sure he is definitely one of our stars.”

McConnell has already fulfilled many of his goals in life, with Seddon’s success at Cheltenham last year sealing the ambition of a Festival winner, while big-race success in both codes is enough to keep any trainer content with their lot.

However, the Grand National is a different beast and like many who have come before, it is a race McConnell craves to add to his growing roll of honour.

“Like Cheltenham, winning this race is another childhood dream and it doesn’t get much bigger than the Grand National,” continued McConnell.

“To potentially have a runner with a chance is huge. I have always loved the National and it would mean an awful lot to me (if he could win) and in regards my team, they do all the hard work, so for everyone involved it would be massive for them.”

The Rockview Stables handler admits to wondering what it could be like to lift the Grand National trophy aloft in Liverpool, but is taking a relaxed approach across the Irish Sea as he prepares to saddle his most important runner to date.

“If you don’t dream about it then you are probably in the wrong game,” said McConnell.

“But I’m pretty relaxed about it, even though it’s a big thing. I’m really relaxed for some reason and what will be will be.

“I’m going to set out to enjoy it rather than stress about it and hopefully it all works out, it would be a dream come true.”

Mahler Mission has long been a standout performer of McConnell’s Stamullen operation and right from his days over hurdles was making successful trips to the UK.

Victories over timber in the Grade Two River Don and in a Perth Listed event highlighted Mahler Mission’s capabilities, but it wasn’t until his novice chasing days and a stellar effort at the Cheltenham Festival in the National Hunt Chase that Grand National dreams were truly ignited.

On that occasion the eight-year-old had built up a commanding lead in the staying novice contest before crashing out two from home. But McConnell had seen enough to start thinking of Aintree the following season.

“I suppose when he ran so well in the National Hunt Chase last year it was steering us this way a little bit and he backed it up with some good runs this year,” continued McConnell.

“When you get to the rating he has, there are not a lot of places you can go anyway and it is such a good pot as well for the National, it is certainly worth having a crack at.

“We would love to have a bit of luck on our side and it would be great to be competitive, but the main thing is he comes back in one piece.”

If Mahler Mission’s novice chase campaign planted a Grand National seed in McConnel’s head, then his two performances so far this season have only reaffirmed Aintree ambitions.

Second to a resurgent Thunder Rock at Carlisle on reappearance, he then marched on to Newbury where he combatted a less than ideal build-up to the Coral Gold Cup and losing two front shoes during the race, to finish a highly commendable runner-up.

The wet winter means Mahler Mission has been safely tucked away in his box since that Berkshire raid, but McConnell has no concerns about the long lay-off for his frequent traveller as the day that has been keeping his team dreaming through the last few months fast approaches.

McConnell added: “He travelled like a class horse in the race at Newbury and the winner got a great ride and probably ground it out. We probably had a bit of an interrupted preparation going into the race, so we were delighted with the run and we hope he can come forward again.

“I’ve no real worries about him not running since and I can get him fit at home. He’s had a racecourse gallop and I’m not too worried.

“He travels no problem and is a very relaxed horse. We’re very happy with him at home and at the minute we’re firmly on course anyway.

“No one really knows how he will get on (at Aintree) until he goes and does it. But he’s a very mentally tough horse, so you would be hopeful he will take to the fences well. After that I suppose it will all be about staying out of trouble and that’s more luck than anything. You would be very hopeful he would be OK in regard to the fences.

“This is why you go through the winters in the freezing weather, to get to these days and if we’re lucky enough to capture it, then it would be a dream come true for everyone.”

It is hard to mention the Grand National without the name McCain following close behind and 20 years ago the race’s most famous family wrote their name into the Aintree record books for a fourth time thanks to Amberleigh House.

Ginger McCain was arguably the man who helped shape the destiny of the world’s most great steeplechase, with his charismatic personality and masterful handling of the great Red Rum breathing life into the marathon event at a time when many questioned its existence.

McCain had already tasted National glory on three occasions with the legendary Red Rum by the time Amberleigh House set about trying to conquer Aintree, but it had been over 30 years since the horse that had defined the Southport handler’s training career had first etched his name onto the Grand National’s roll of honour.

The McCain family of course had heard every tale possible about Red Rum, but Amberleigh House – who was very much a part of the family and had a love of Aintree befitting of a firm McCain favourite – would cement his decorated trainer’s legacy and give Ginger’s son Donald just a glimpse of how the halcyon days of Red Rum may have been.

“I remember everything about that day and we were all very involved with Amberleigh,” said Donald McCain.

“I rode him out every day and my wife looked after him every day.

“It was great for dad because everyone called him a one-horse trainer. He was never bothered by it because he would say ‘what a great job I made of that one’.

“We had one good horse in the yard at the time and a lot of time and investment went into him and it meant an awful lot to all of us. We made the best job of him we could.”

Amberleigh House would be one of Ginger McCain’s final runners in the Grand National before he passed the baton over to son Donald in 2006 and although the younger McCain would go on to win the Grand National himself with Ballabriggs in 2011, it is still that 2004 triumph that sticks in the forefront of his memory.

He added: “It was quite surreal and it was literally from the elbow where it all happened so it wasn’t a very long period of time, but it was just very, very special.

“For us as a family, we grew up around a retired Red Rum but weren’t around when he was winning and to get to feel a bit of that was very special and to this day it would be the best day I’ve had in racing, even better than the day I won it with Ballabriggs.

“There was a McCain way but that is probably gone now to be honest. We knew what an Aintree horse was and how to get one ready for Aintree and train them for that one day. But things have changed so far now that I don’t think that even comes into it the same now.”

Amberleigh House competed round the famous fences on 11 occasions failing to complete only twice – when brought down in his first crack at the big race in 2001 and when pulled-up on his final start before retirement in 2006.

He was ridden for the majority of those assignments by Graham Lee, the crack jump jockey turned Flat pilot who formed a dynamic partnership with the foot-perfect stayer.

The 20-year anniversary of the duo’s finest hour comes poignantly at a time when Lee is recovering from the life-changing injuries suffered in a fall at Newcastle last November and there is little doubt about Lee’s importance to the Amberleigh House story.

“Graham was a very high-class jump jockey and what has happened to him is very sad,” continued McCain.

“We all think about him all the time and he managed to carve a second career on the Flat, but he was a very good jump jockey, one of the best around.

“He was a big part of Amberleigh House and they were made for each other, they were a pleasure to watch together the pair of them.”

With Amberleigh House and Lee’s biggest day still to come, it was the pair’s defeat at the hands of Clan Royal in that season’s Becher Chase that proved instrumental to Grand National glory, helping shape riding plans for the big race itself a few months later.

“I think losing that Becher Chase won us the National and I think Graham would say the same,” said McCain.

“He got beat a short head in the Becher Chase that season by Clan Royal and it was the shortest of short heads.

“If you looked at Clan Royal he was twice as big as old Amberleigh and we were distraught to be honest. They were ding dong from the top of the straight and the two of them came clear and it was a fantastic finish.

“To be honest losing that I think helped us win a Grand National as I had a good talk with Graham and we decided Amberleigh only had one little burst of acceleration in him and there was a general consensus that sounds cocky now, but don’t hit the front until the elbow.

“If you watched Graham a few years later he tried to do the same on a horse of Ferdy Murphy’s who just didn’t stay. He arrived at the last with a chance on Big Fella Thanks in Ballabriggs’ year and tried to do a very similar thing with him.”

It was Becher adversary Clan Royal that was sent off the 10-1 co-favourite for the 2004 Grand National with Amberleigh House 16-1 in the market.

Jonjo O’Neill’s charge looked to be in the process of obliging favourite-backers when jumping to the lead two out, with Amberleigh House still having plenty to do among those still attempting to complete the course.

A repeat of the previous year’s third seemed the best Amberleigh House could hope for, but the complexion of the contest was about to change, with Clan Royal and Martin Pipe’s Lord Atterbury running out of steam and Lee executing the McCain plan to perfection as Amberleigh House and his trademark white noseband closed the gap on the lung-busting run to the line.

“I think he was fourth from the back of the Canal Turn and you’re looking behind to see if something was going to come and do him for fourth and then I just thought at the second-last he was staying on but just took two more strides to jump it,” explained McCain.

“If he had jumped it two strides sooner I would have thought we had a real chance and then Hedgehunter fell at the last and I thought ‘we’re going to be third again in the Grand National’.

“Then halfway up the run-in everything changed, it was the most amazing day.

“There was only one man who would ever know how confident he was and that was Graham himself. But it was a case of we didn’t want to get there too soon and the one thing I can imagine is he would have been getting the most wonderful ride off him, as you will never see another horse jump Aintree better than Amberleigh House – and I mean the old Aintree, not the one we’re on about now.”

It was a case of third-time lucky for Amberleigh House and a National win that McCain thought had maybe passed the horse by after his gallant third to Monty’s Pass 12 months prior to his glorious afternoon on Merseyside.

However, the pint-sized National hero would keep coming back for more of the famous spruce, never letting his side down when faced with the challenge of the National fences.

“The year before he was third in the race he was very tired afterwards, he was absolutely drunk and we had to take him away out of the winner’s enclosure,” said McCain.

“You kind of wondered if that was his chance of winning the Grand National gone. He didn’t know where he was for about 20 minutes so it is to his credit he came back and he just loved the place.

“He was just the most amazing little horse and Amberleigh was so good to jump round there, he was as good as you ever see. You never really didn’t expect him to get round which was a fairly big thing at the old Aintree. He was only 15’2 and half an inch but as good a jumper as you would ever see – he was just so good round there.”

Hopes of any turf racing taking place in Britain on Saturday hinge on a second precautionary inspection at Uttoxeter at 7.30am.

Friday’s jumps cards at Fontwell, Wetherby and Wexford all fell victim to the persistent wet spell, while Saturday’s card at Stratford and Kelso’s Premier Raceday were also abandoned due to waterlogging.

Officials at Uttoxeter staged an initial inspection at 2pm on Friday to assess the latest state of play and while standing water remains in some areas, the track was described as raceable, prompting the team to announce a further check for raceday morning.

A statement posted on X, formerly Twitter, read: “Following our precautionary inspection at 2pm, the track is currently raceable with no rain since 7.30am.

“We are optimistic that we will be able to race tomorrow, however, due to variable forecasts, we will be holding another precautionary inspection at 7:30am.”

Saturday’s Curragh meeting, due to feature the Group Three Alleged Stakes, is also subject to a 7.30am inspection.

Brendan Sheridan, the IHRB clerk of the course at the Curragh, said on Friday morning: “Following a further 6.5mm of rain overnight, the Curragh remains heavy and fit for racing. Having spoken with Met Éireann this morning, there is the possibility of a further 8-11mm of rain between now and 5.35pm tomorrow.

“However, we are also faced with the prospect of Storm Kathleen which has the potential to bring high gusts of wind through tomorrow. On the basis of the forecast for further rain, we will have a 7.30am inspection on Saturday morning to assess if the track remains fit for racing.

“Should the track remain fit for racing at that point, we will continue to monitor the situation and consult with Met Éireann in relation to the high winds.”

Saturday’s racing programme is completed by all-weather cards at Chelmsford and Kempton and the disruption looks likely to continue, with Downpatrick’s Sunday meeting hinging on a 7.30am check.

Tuesday’s Flat meeting at Navan has already been cancelled, while Hexham’s jumps card on the same day also looks in serious doubt, with officials calling an inspection for 7.30am on Sunday.

Harry Charlton could land his first major success since taking over the Beckhampton licence when Sleeping Lion bids for his second victory in Kempton’s Virgin Bet Queen’s Prize Handicap.

The Sunbury regular got his hands on the staying handicap on his debut for the Charlton team in 2021 before returning to finish fifth last season and the nine-year-old’s last three appearances have all come on the all-weather at this venue.

Three of the experienced stayer’s five career victories have been at Kempton and his handler believes local knowledge can see him thereabouts once again in the £45,000 contest.

“He’s not really a horse for undulating tracks and he doesn’t like soft ground so we quite often come back to Kempton,” said Charlton, who has taken over solely after a spell alongside his father, Roger.

“He’s in good form and he always runs well there, it just looks quite competitive I thought.

“I think if he runs his usual kind of race, he will be thereabouts, whether he is improving, it’s hard to say at that age, but he’s very consistent and very enthusiastic. He’s a pleasure to have around.”

James Owen is another handler who could establish himself as a leading player on the Flat this season and his impressive Catterick hurdles winner Sweet Fantasy changes tack in search of this valuable prize.

“The plan was to go to Musselburgh for the big handicap last weekend and she was declared to run but unfortunately it was called off and we have come here with her,” said Owen.

“I would rather run her on the grass but she works very well on the all-weather and has some back-form on the all-weather.

“I think the step up in trip will massively help her and she looked a very solid stayer for me over hurdles.

“I’m looking forward to seeing what she can do on the Flat for us and I think there is more to come from what she has shown at home. Hopefully she can do it on the track as well.

“It’s nice that Aidan (Keeley) can ride them both (also partners Cannon Rock in the Rosebery Handicap). I think he is riding really well and he claims a massive 3lb and is a very good rider. He’s helping me out massively at home, so it’s nice to be able to repay him.”

James Fanshawe’s Novel Legend was a regular in the top staying contests last season and finished the year competing in the Group One Prix Royal-Oak in France.

He will carry top weight, while Andrew Balding’s Spirit Mixer is 1lb lower than when chasing home star stayer Trueshan in the 2022 Northumberland Plate and is sure to be sharper for his Lingfield return from a long 328-day absence last month.

Ian Williams’ Aqwaam landed the victory he had been threatening at Lingfield on Good Friday and will go in search of his second win in the space of eight days off a 4lb higher rating.

“He ran very well at Lingfield last time and 4lb doesn’t look too extreme against what he has achieved, so we would be hopeful of another decent run,” said Williams.

“It’s always good to pick up a decent prize, so it would be good to see him run well again.”

Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Broadway Boy is ready for his Aintree assignment after missing out on the Cheltenham Festival.

The six-year-old began his debut season over fences in September, winning at the first time of asking and then impressing with a trio of good runs at Prestbury Park.

He finished second to Flooring Porter over three miles and half a furlong in October before returning to the Cotswolds to win a Listed contest over the same trip and a valuable handicap over three miles and two.

The gelding was subsequently a distant third in the Hampton Novices’ Chase at Warwick but was still a popular pick ahead of the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase at the Festival in March.

An unsatisfactory scope ruled him out of the race two days before he was due to line up, but the bay has fared well since and is preparing to run in the Mildmay Novices’ Chase at the Grand National meeting.

“He’s very well, he did a bit of work on Tuesday and all being well he’s headed for Aintree,” said Willy Twiston-Davies, assistant to his father.

“His last two trach washes have been spotless and he’s in very good form, it’s all systems go.

“He’ll go for the three-mile Grade One novice.”

The Twiston-Davies team have a nice prospect in Clap Of Thunder, a four-year-old Mount Nelson gelding with four bumper runs under his belt.

He was most recently seen in the Tattersalls Ireland George Mernagh Memorial Sales Bumper at Fairyhouse on March 31, competing among a field of 14 horses, including some expensive purchases.

Under conditional amateur Toby McCain-Mitchell, Clap Of Thunder raced at the head of the field and though he was eventually outdone by an impressive winner in Willie Mullins’ Kopek Des Bordes, the third-placed horse was nine lengths behind him and the rest of the runners were even further strung out.

The bay is owned by his trainer and will go through the sales ring in search of a new home, though the family are naturally keen for him to return to the yard for them to train for fresh connections.

“That was brilliant, we were really, really pleased with him,” said Twiston-Davies.

“He bumped into a very good horse and I imagine that will be him done for the season.

“He is for sale and he will go to the sales, but we’d like to keep him in the yard if we could.

“He’s not made to be a four-year-old bumper horse, he’s a very big horse, so that just shows the ability he’s got at this stage in his career.

“We’d like to think he’d make a very nice novice hurdler for next year, we’ve schooled him plenty already and he looks a bit of a natural.”

Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up Gerri Colombe and Festival absentees Hewick and Shishkin are among 12 entries for the Aintree Bowl on the opening afternoon of the Grand National meeting on Thursday.

Gordon Elliott’s Gerri Colombe finished a clear best of the rest behind reigning champion Galopin Des Champs in the blue riband at Prestbury Park last month and could now bid for a second win on Merseyside, having claimed Grade One honours in the Mildmay Novices’ Chase 12 months ago.

Shark Hanlon made the difficult decision to take Hewick out of the Gold Cup due to the rain-softened ground, and having opted against running his charge under top-weight in the Randox Grand National, he is instead set to line up at Aintree 48 hours earlier.

Shishkin was also declared a non-runner in the Gold Cup during a difficult week at Cheltenham for Nicky Henderson, meaning he will be fresh as he looks to claim the Bowl for the second year in succession.

Other contenders for the home team include the Paul Nicholls-trained Bravemansgame, Dan Skelton’s Ryanair Chase hero Protektorat and Ahoy Senor from Lucinda Russell’s yard, while the Irish contingent interestingly features Emmet Mullins’ exciting novice Corbetts Cross.

The latter was hugely impressive when sauntering to success in the National Hunt Chase at the Festival and could now step up to take on more experienced rivals at the highest level.

Banbridge (Joseph O’Brien), Conflated (Elliott), Gentlemansgame (Mouse Morris), Jungle Boogie (Henry de Bromhead) and Thunder Rock (Olly Murphy) complete the potential field.

A dozen entries have also been made for the William Hill Aintree Hurdle, which will of course be missing last year’s winner Constitution Hill.

In his absence, leading lights include Elliott’s Champion Hurdle runner-up Irish Point, De Bromhead’s Bob Olinger and the Willie Mullins-trained Impaire Et Passe, with the latter pair having purposely sidestepped Cheltenham to be saved for this race.

Despite Constitution Hill being sidelined, Henderson could still be represented with Champion Hurdle third Luccia, Iberico Lord, Marie’s Rock and First Street all in the mix, while dual Coral Cup victor Langer Dan could step up in class for the title-chasing Skelton team.

The first of four Grade Ones is the Manifesto Novices’ Chase, which also features Corbetts Cross as well as the Willie Mullins-trained pair of Embassy Gardens and Il Etait Temps, with Turners Novices’ Chase one-two Grey Dawning (Skelton) and Ginny’s Destiny (Nicholls) perhaps the best of the British in an 18-strong field.

A total of 13 four-year-olds are in contention for the Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle, with Henderson’s Sir Gino looking for compensation after missing the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham.

His potential rivals include the Triumph Hurdle second and fourth Kargese (Willie Mullins) and Nurburgring (Joseph O’Brien), as well as the unbeaten Kalif Du Berlais (Nicholls).

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