Dual Coral Cup winner Langer Dan takes a step into the unknown as he tackles Grade One company for the first time in the William Hill Aintree Hurdle.

The eight-year-old had struggled for form during the winter but trainer Dan Skelton reported the gelding had suffered from stomach ulcers over that period.

He was right back to his very best at Cheltenham, however, winning by three and a half lengths to become the first dual winner of the ultra-competitive handicap and he now faces top-level scorers Bob Olinger and Impaire Et Passe in a field of eight.

“He’s up in class, running in a Grade One for the first time I think, which is very exciting,” said Skelton.

“I’ve got a lot of respect for first two in the betting (Bob Olinger and Impaire Et Passe) and they’re not going to be easy horses to beat, but our horse is in great form and put up a career-best in the Coral Cup last time.

“I think think he’s a player anyway, but whether he can beat the two fancied ones or not we’ll see.”

Henry de Bromhead’s Bob Olinger missed the Cheltenham Festival having finished second in the Irish Champion Hurdle as this has been his main target all season, over his ideal trip of two and a half miles.

“I’m really looking forward to riding Bob Olinger in the Aintree Hurdle,” Rachael Blackmore told Betfair.

“He was really good in the Relkeel Hurdle at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day. It was great to feel the old Bob Olinger spark again this season. He really felt back to himself. When you have ridden a horse who has the ability that he has, it’s great when you get that feeling from him again.

“He ran very well then in the Irish Champion Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown, he did well to keep on to finish second to the Champion Hurdler State Man.

“He’s in great form at home, and hopefully he can continue running like he has been running all season. We couldn’t be happier with him, we’re really looking forward to him.”

Nicky Henderson’s Luccia ran a massive career-best to finish third in the Champion Hurdle when many of her stablemates were under a cloud, with her trainer eager to try a longer trip.

“The line of thought with stepping her up in trip is that we haven’t really got anywhere else to go other than Punchestown for the two-mile mares’ hurdle where you’d expect Lossiemouth to turn up,” Henderson told Unibet.

“We were third in the Champion Hurdle so it would be interesting to find out where we compare with Lossiemouth to find out whether Lossiemouth would have been fourth or first in the Champion Hurdle.

“State Man didn’t exactly get a million miles away from Luccia which is probably the bit that chews us as we know where Luccia would sit with Constitution Hill and five lengths wouldn’t bring them together.

“I thought Lossiemouth was brilliant the twice we’ve seen her this season, so not only are we not keen on taking her on, I’ve been dying to step Luccia up in trip as this is an opportunity to see if she stays as it will make next year much easier.”

Beacon Edge, Mahons Glory, Nemean Lion and Marie’s Rock complete the field.

Late-night commuters at an Australian train station had a surprise travel companion last Friday as a loose horse ended up on the platform.

An unknown person broke into the premises of trainer Annabel Neasham, who is based at Warwick Farm in Sydney, unlocking some of the stable doors which allowed the horse to escape.

The unnamed runner ended up on the platform at Warwick Farm train station, with New South Wales Premier Chris Minns sharing a video of the incident on Wednesday, which shows the horse walking up and down as a train arrives while passengers jumped out of the way.

The horse was eventually caught by a staff member and transported back home.

In a post on X, Minns said: “Wet tracker.

“Didn’t realise I needed to say but – horses aren’t allowed on our trains, sorry folks.

“I can confirm the horse has returned home, safe and sound.”

Neasham, who was born in Britain and is best known for her handling of ex-Sir Michael Stoute runner Zaaki, has been contacted Racing NSW stewards regarding the incident.

A statement from the authority said: “Ms Neasham explained that on the evening of Friday, April 5 an unknown person gained access to one of her stable barns in the Warwick Farm stabling precinct.

“It was ascertained that the unknown person released three racehorses and a stable pony with one of the stated racehorses leaving the vicinity of her stable complex.

“Ms Neasham added that as soon as she became aware that there was a loose horse from her stable complex, she immediately contacted local police who attended soon after and the horse was able to be recaptured without sustaining any injury or damaging any property.

“Further, Ms Neasham explained that the stable barn which was accessed accommodates horses which are in the early stages of their respective preparations and therefore did not contain any horses which were entered for or scheduled to race.

“Ms Neasham will be formally interviewed by the stewards at a time to be fixed regarding the incident.”

Cheltenham Festival runner-up Kargese follows a familiar route for Willie Mullins in the Boodles Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle at Aintree on Thursday.

The Closutton handler has claimed this Grade One contest twice in the last seven years, with both the sensational 2016 victor Apple’s Jade and last year’s heroine Zenta picking up minor honours in the Triumph Hurdle prior to striking gold on Merseyside.

His latest challenger is a pea out of the same pod having found only stablemate Majborough too strong at Prestbury Park last month – and while Nicky Henderson’s unbeaten Triumph absentee Sir Gino is a major threat, connections of Kargese are quietly confident about her chances.

“If she’s come out of Cheltenham well, which the team at Closutton seem to think she has, she must have every chance,” said Peter Molony, racing manger for owner Kenny Alexander.

“She just needs to learn to settle a little bit. I would upgrade her run big time in the Triumph as she basically fought for her head the whole way round and never really settled. Before the last she looked like she was galloping all over the winner and then she just got tired.

“I know the winner is very good, but I think she definitely would have got closer to him if she had settled better, so if she can settle on Thursday we’d be very hopeful.

“She’s a very nice mare who owes us nothing as she’s had a great year already, but we rate her pretty highly so hopefully she can settle and we’ll have a good run.”

Sir Gino looked every inch a top-class prospect after winning his first two starts for Nicky Henderson, particularly when dominating his rivals in a Triumph Hurdle trial at Cheltenham in late January.

The French import disappointingly missed the Triumph Hurdle itself during what was a difficult week for his trainer, but that does at least mean he will be fresh for his latest assignment.

“It was sad he couldn’t run at Cheltenham because, to be fair, there was nothing wrong with him but by the time we got to the Friday I’d completely lost my bottle altogether,” Henderson told Unibet.

“I didn’t dare run him. I think he’s a very good horse and we’re going to find out sooner or later. He looked very good on Trials day at Cheltenham and his work recently has been up to that standard.

“He’s been round Auteuil so the ground shouldn’t worry him.”

Similar comments apply to the Paul Nicholls-trained Kalif Du Berlais, who is two from two since arriving in Britain and has been saved for Aintree since landing the Adonis at Kempton in February.

“He’s a horse with a big future and maintained his unbeaten record with a determined success in the Adonis Hurdle at Kempton under a 5lb penalty,” Nicholls told Betfair.

“It was always the plan to miss the Triumph Hurdle and wait for this race at Aintree. We’ve deliberately given him time and although this is a step up in class for him, he seems be improving physically and I think he is in better shape than he was before his last run.”

Joseph O’Brien saddles both Triumph Hurdle fourth Nurburgring and his stablemate Intellotto, who was last seen landing a small-field conditions event at Limerick.

Syd Hosie’s rank outsider and hurdling debutant Dirty Den, down the field in the Champion Bumper last month, completes the field.

Galileo Dame looks to have a bright future based on the way she quickened up to win the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Fillies Maiden at Leopardstown.

The last three winners have all gone on to be Group One performers in Tarnawa, Above The Curve and last season subsequent Irish Oaks winner Savethelastdance was successful in it.

Aidan O’Brien ran two with Ryan Moore preferring the claims of Rubies Are Red, a full-sister to multiple Group One winner Found and it was she and stablemate Flight Of Fancy who went for him just off the bend.

Dylan Browne McMonagle was just biding his time on the Joseph O’Brien-trained winner, though, and as soon as she was in the clear despite the ground being heavy she sprinted away to win by three and a half lengths at 13-8.

“She had a good run in soft ground last year and we thought that 10 furlongs would suit her well,” said Joseph O’Brien.

“I was very pleased and looking at that you’d have to say she’s a smart filly.

“I suppose the obvious thing now is to go into an Oaks trial of some sort. That’s probably where she’ll go.

“She’s owned by a great group of lads, the Annus Mirabilis Syndicate, Sean O’Driscoll and Brian McKieran. It’s exciting for them to have a real smart filly.”

James Reveley will get the leg-up on a horse he helped to source as he partners Roi Mage in the Randox Grand National on Saturday.

The 12-year-old is trained in Ireland by Patrick Griffin and his son and assistant James – a duo Reveley is well acquainted with, having ridden numerous winners for them throughout his career.

A notable victory shared between them was with Maggio in the Listed Betfred Handicap Chase in 2016, the race before the Grand National in which Rule The World triumphed for Mouse Morris and David Mullins.

On that occasion, Reveley wore the blue and yellow silks previously made famous by Auroras Encore when he won the Aintree showpiece in 2013 for Sue Smith and Ryan Mania, colours belonging to a group of owners that clearly love to target the big race.

They did so last year with Roi Mage, who was partnered by another France-based jockey in Felix de Giles and finished an admirable seventh after his first encounter with the unique National obstacles at Aintree.

After a summer break, he joined forces with Reveley to target the Listed Grand Steeple-Chase-Cross-Country de Compiegne, a race he won by three lengths on heavy ground over three miles and three furlongs.

Most recently, he was seen in the Bluegrass Stamm 30 Chase at Down Royal, finishing second behind fellow National challenger Adamantly Chosen.

That run has prepared him nicely for his Liverpool bid and Reveley is looking forward to reuniting with him on going that is guaranteed to be testing.

“He’s a horse I’ve ridden a few times and I know quite well, I found him for the Griffins in France,” he said.

“I’d ridden him in France and I thought he’d be a good National type, they’ve had a bit of fun with him, they’ve had a couple of wins and a good run in the National last year. Let’s hope he can put in another one, as they love to have a National horse.

“I actually rode a winner for them at Aintree in the race before the National a long time ago, on Maggio in the same colours, so that’s where the connection comes from.

“They asked me if there were any horses in France that could potentially be National types and I thought of this horse, he’s turned out to be quite good for them.

“I think things have gone a bit better for him this year, his last run was good, very solid, and I liked how he stayed on to the line.

“They campaign him quietly, they don’t over-race him and that’s good for an older horse. He enjoys his life with the Griffins in Ireland and I’m quietly confident.”

Reveley has already enjoyed a notable success on British turf this year when landing the Grade One Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day aboard Il Est Francais.

Noel George and Amanda Zetterholm’s gelding then contested the Prix Murat at Auteuil last Saturday but something appeared to be amiss as he was all but pulled up.

“I haven’t heard the verdict yet but my immediate conclusion was that he didn’t enjoy being ridden like that,” the jockey said of the disappointment.

“He’s a dominant horse who likes to dominate, to use his stride and his jumping – and we didn’t let him do that.

“I think that could be one of the reasons why he ran so badly.”

Emmet Mullins’ Corbetts Cross is bidding for the Cheltenham-Aintree double as he prepares to contest the William Hill Bowl Chase on the opening day of the Grand National meeting.

The chestnut was a wide-margin winner at the Cheltenham Festival, taking the Maureen Mullins National Hunt Challenge Cup by 17 lengths under Derek O’Connor.

That run proved his stamina and his ability in heavy ground, and now his class will be tested as he steps down in trip from three miles and six furlongs to three miles and a furlong at Aintree.

Frank Berry, racing manager to owner JP McManus, said: “He’s probably in at the deep end, but he’s in good form, came out of Cheltenham very well and Emmet was keen enough to have a crack at it.

“The other horse is in the three-mile novice, Inothewayurthinkin, so we said we’d give Corbetts Cross a crack at this and see how we get on.

“He’s obviously coming back from Cheltenham where he had a hard enough race and he is in at the deep end, but as long as he runs well and gets round we’ll be happy.”

Nicky Henderson’s Shishkin is the reigning champion in the race but has met with mixed fortunes this year, refusing to race in the  1965 Chase at Ascot and then falling with the race at his mercy in the King George VI Chase.

He bounced back to stroll to victory in the Denman Chase but his participation in the Gold Cup was prevented by an unsatisfactory scope ahead of the race during a difficult time for the Seven Barrows stable.

“Nico rode him on Saturday and said he felt fantastic, we’re ready to rock and roll I hope,” Henderson told Unibet.

“We had to miss the Gold Cup but there was nothing else you could do, it just hasn’t been his year.

“The King George, you could argue whether he would or he wouldn’t have won – I’ve always felt that he would have won.

“Let’s hope he can put it all to rights, he certainly deserves it.”

Gordon Elliott will saddle the Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up Gerri Colombe in the race after he missed out by three and a half lengths when last seen in the Cotswolds in March.

The gelding has course and distance form as he was the winner of the Mildmay Novices’ Chase at the meeting last year with an easy seven-and-a-half-length success.

“I’m really happy with Gerri Colombe, he worked great on Monday morning,” the trainer told At The Races.

“We were a bit disappointed with him after the Savills Chase, so we were delighted to see him come back to himself when running so well in the Gold Cup at the Cheltenham Festival.

“He seems to be improving all the time and can hopefully step up again. He handles soft ground very well, but he travelled great on nicer ground at Aintree last year, so I don’t think he’s one dimensional that way.”

Paul Nicholls’ Bravemansgame also ran in the Cheltenham Gold Cup but did not run up to his mark when tailed off in fifth.

Nicholls felt the conditions did not suit him and will also experiment with cheekpieces as the bay looks to return to form in Liverpool.

“Things haven’t quite gone to plan for Bravemansgame this season,” he said to Betfair.

“He hated the testing conditions at Cheltenham and it was clear from an early stage in the Gold Cup that he wasn’t handling them.

“The flat track at Aintree will suit him better and the ground shouldn’t be as deep as at Cheltenham.

“We are putting cheekpieces on Bravemansgame to help sharpen him up. It’s something we almost tried last time. His regular rider Scott Marshall was very pleased with the way he worked on Saturday morning.”

Mouse Morris’ Gentlemansgame is another contender last seen in the Gold Cup, where he was pulled up two from home following a more fruitful start to the season that saw him finish second in the PWC Champion Chase and win the Charlie Hall.

Lucinda Russell’s Ahoy Senor was second behind Shishkin in the race last term and lines up in a bid to go one better after coming home in the middle of the pack in the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham when last seen.

Olly Murphy’s Thunder Rock completes the field, winner of the Listed bet365 Premier Chase at Kelso in early March.

Valvano is set for a step up in distance following his encouraging return behind 2000 Guineas hopeful Notable Speech at Kempton.

An impressive winner of a heavy ground maiden at Nottingham last October, the Ralph Beckett-trained colt was tasked with taking on Godolphin’s highly-regarded and unbeaten track-and-trip specialist for his return in a conditions race won by some top operators over the years.

The son of Night Of Thunder lost little in defeat when headed late on by the speedy winner – who was cut across the boards for the 2000 Guineas in the aftermath – and having blown away the cobwebs and confirmed the promise of his excellent debut, connections can now look forward to moving up in distance and a possible run in a Classic trial next.

“We knew we were going to use Saturday as a stepping stone and we know that he is going to want 10 furlongs plus and probably with a bit of juice in the ground, so for Valvano to go a mile round Kempton and take on a horse who has every chance of taking his chance in the Guineas, it was always going to be a tough ask,” said Alex Elliott, adviser to owners Valmont.

“It will have done him good to get the freshness out of him and it was an improvement on his debut and will have taught him something. We look forward to stepping him up in trip now and we will probably look at a trial, I suppose.

“The winner looks a cut above in terms of going a mile and you would like to think if we could make the same improvement as we did from a maiden going into a conditions race when going up in trip in preferred conditions, we could have a really smart horse hopefully.”

With the feeling Valvano has a preference for cut in the ground, weather conditions could dictate where he steps up in trip and although he holds an entry for the Betfred Derby, it could be the French equivalent at Chantilly that becomes a longer-term objective.

Elliott continued: “Ralph thinks from his pedigree he is going to want a little bit of rain and I think he is going to be ground dependent.

“On the bottom side of his pedigree there is a lot of stamina, being out of a Duke Of Marmalade mare. But Night Of Thunder doesn’t really get them to stay that far. Ten furlongs could be his optimum for now but I think Ralph is pretty confident the horse could stay even further.

“He’s in the Dante, but wherever the rain is, whether that is York or Chester or something like that, if that went to plan, we could look at going to France for the French Derby.

“We’ll see and it’s a long way away and for now it is nice to see him back and make the progression. Hopefully he can take another step forward next time.”

Fellow Valmont-owned three-year-old Feigning Madness could also put his Classic hopes to the test when he makes his return in trial action at either Epsom or Lingfield.

The son of Ulysses somewhat surprised his team when going unbeaten in two starts as a two-year-old and as well as being a candidate for the Derby, the colt is also seen as a possible St Leger prospect for later in the campaign.

“He ran above expectation last year, he ran at Newbury first time and we thought he would be green, which he was, but we didn’t really expect him to do what he did,” continued Elliott.

“To then carry a penalty the way he did at Newmarket when the horse was on his head the whole way, you have to think the horse is going to stay super well.

“He’s going to come back in a trial and it will either be the Blue Riband Trial at Epsom or Lingfield. He has had two runs now and has learnt a lot. He is crying out for a step up in trip and we’re going to try to pick our easiest way to Epsom – if we can run well in a trial, then why not take a shot.

“He’s a well-balanced horse and his work has been good this year, which is pleasing everybody, and I think the further he goes, the better, so you could hopefully see him in something at Doncaster at the end of the season.”

Feigning Madness claimed the scalp of Ed Walker’s Harper’s Ferry on his second start and it was interesting to see another of the Valmont string, Moon Over Miami, also finish ahead of that rival when making a taking debut at Doncaster at the beginning of the Flat turf season.

As he is a gelding, Classic events are off the cards, but connections are keen to see the Kimpton Downs inmate continue his on-track education with a view to lining up at Royal Ascot in the summer.

“The time boys went crazy over Moon Over Miami but with him being a gelding, he can’t take in one of the trials so we will probably go for another novice with a penalty,” added Elliott.

“I think Ralph has his eye on something Greenham weekend – I think there is a 10 furlong novice there – and I guess we will be trying to get three runs into him before Royal Ascot.

“We’re just a little hamstrung with him being a gelding as to what we do next, but he’s exciting.”

Jonbon steps up to two and a half miles for the first time in Friday’s ultra-competitive My Pension Expert Melling Chase at Aintree.

Nicky Henderson’s charge has won multiple Grade Ones over the minimum trip but connections have been minded to try him over further for some time.

Having missed the Cheltenham Festival due to concerns over the form of his string, Henderson will be hoping for a better display than the one which saw him beaten at 1-4 in the rearranged Clarence House Chase when he made several jumping errors.

Taking him on are this year’s Ryanair winner Protekorat and the 2022 winner of that race Envoi Allen.

Protekorat had spent a large part of the previous two seasons running over three miles but excelled dropped in trip last month, while Envoi Allen put up a game defence of his title in second.

Paul Nicholls won the race last year with Pic D’Orhy and the nine-year-old is back again searching for a valuable win for his handler in the race to be champion trainer.

Gordon Elliott’s Conflated also runs in this in preference to the Grand National, with Easy Game and Minella Drama completing the field.

Two smart mares, Golden Ace and Dysart Enos, will meet again in the TrustATrader Top Novices’ Hurdle.

Fergal O’Brien’s Dysart Enos came out on top when they met in a Grade Two bumper at this meeting 12 months ago but she was denied her chance to go for glory at Cheltenham due to a minor setback.

In her absence Jeremy Scott’s Golden Ace won the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle, beating some well-touted Irish contenders.

Standing in their way is Willie Mullins’ Supreme runner-up Mystical Power, the third Firefox and Ben Pauling’s promising Personal Ambition in a field of eight.

There are six in the Huyton Asphalt Franny Blennerhassett Memorial Mildmay Novices’ Chase and none can be confidently ruled out.

Cheltenham winner Inothewayurthinkin and Kim Bailey’s Chianti Classico will have plenty of supporters.

Henry de Bromhead sends over Heart Wood, Broadway Boy gets the chance to atone for missing Cheltenham, with Giovinco and Iroko not out of it either.

The Mullins-trained Dancing City and Readin Tommy Wrong, Shanagh Bob, Croke Park and The Jukebox Man, agonisingly reeled in by Stellar Story in the Albert Bartlett, are among nine in the Cavani Sartorial Menswear Sefton Novices’ Hurdle.

Rachael Blackmore became the first woman to ride the winner of the Grand National when guiding Minella Times home on this day in 2021.

The Henry De Bromhead-trained Minella Times helped Blackmore back up her Cheltenham exploits weeks earlier with more history at Aintree.

Despite the race taking place behind closed doors due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it was a day to remember for Blackmore on the 11-1 shot after 32 previous female jockeys had tried and failed to win the Grand National.

While Blackmore had finished runner-up in the Gold Cup at Cheltenham the month before, she had claimed top jockey at the meeting to propel herself onto not only the back pages but the front.

Coupled with the well-fancied Minella Times, expectations were high for the 31-year-old and she did not disappoint with a well-timed run on good to soft ground.

Minella Times and Blackmore stormed past outsider Jett over the last fence and held off Balko Des Flos, also De Bromhead-trained, to earn a historic success.

“I don’t feel male or female. I don’t even feel human, I feel unbelievable,” Blackmore exclaimed after her run with Katie Walsh’s third-place finish on Seabass in 2012 the previous best by a female jockey at the Grand National.

“You need so much luck to get around with no-one else interfering first of all. You need so much to go right and things went right for me today.

“I feel so incredibly lucky. It is unbelievable, I’m just so thrilled.”

Paul Townend will be on board I Am Maximus and Mark Walsh has opted to partner Limerick Lace after owner JP McManus finalised riding plans for his five-strong team in Saturday’s Randox Grand National.

The celebrated owner has enjoyed two famous victories in the world’s greatest steeplechase, memorably providing AP McCoy with an elusive first success aboard Don’t Push It in 2010 before the historic triumph of the Rachael Blackmore-ridden Minella Times three years ago.

McManus is set to be well represented once more at Aintree this weekend, with Irish Grand National hero I Am Maximus and his Willie Mullins-trained stablemate Meetingofthewaters his two shortest-priced runners.

William Hill on Tuesday suggested the latter, third in the Ultima at the Cheltenham Festival last month, could even go off favourite following a “massive gamble”, but with Townend in the saddle on I Am Maximus, the owner’s retained rider in Ireland, Mark Walsh, has interestingly sided with Gavin Cromwell’s Mares’ Chase heroine Limerick Lace.

Confirming riding arrangements, McManus’ racing manager Frank Berry said: “Paul is on I Am Maximus, Mark is on Limerick Lace and Danny (Mullins) is on Meetingofthewaters.

“Mark has never ridden I Am Maximus, so Paul will ride him. Mark had a difficult decision to make as he liked Meetingofthewaters at Cheltenham as well. It was a difficult decision, but he’s gone with the mare anyway, so he’s hoping she’ll get the trip.”

Berry said Keith Donoghue had been booked to ride Cotswold Chase winner Capodanno, while Jody McGarvey will do the steering on Janidil.

He added: “They’re all going there in good form, they’ll need a bit of luck in running on the day in the National as everyone knows, but hopefully they’ll give a good account.”

Hills make last year’s winner Corach Rambler their 9-2 favourite, with I Am Maximus 7-1 and Meetingofthewaters only a point behind at 8-1 after being cut from 10s.

Spokesperson Lee Phelps said: “The money started coming in for Meetingofthewaters last week and it has not stopped. Make no mistake, this is a massive gamble, and we’ve been forced to take more preventative action, cutting Willie Mullins’ runner to 8-1 from 10-1, having been as big as 14-1 less than a week ago.

“Most people would have expected last year’s winner Corach Rambler to go off favourite, but if this gamble continues at its current rate we think there’s a good chance Meetingofthewaters could be favourite come Saturday race-time.”

The well-fancied Kitty’s Light, a 14-1 shot with the same firm, appears almost certain to make the cut after Gordon Elliott revealed top-weight Conflated will instead run in the Melling Chase on Friday.

Conflated was one of 13 Elliott-trained horses still in contention for the event following the confirmation stage on Monday, but owners Gigginstown House Stud later said the prospect of running under 11st 12lb on testing ground over four and a quarter miles was a major concern.

The 10-year-old was also entered for Thursday’s Aintree Bowl over three miles and a furlong, but was not declared on Tuesday morning and is instead set to run over two and a half miles the following day.

“We had the option of the Aintree Bowl and the Grand National, but with the ground going the way it is we are going to run in the Melling Chase on Friday instead,” Elliott said in a stable tour for Attheraces.com.

“I thought he ran great in the Ryanair Chase (at Cheltenham, finished third), he hit the line well and I was very happy with his run.”

Conflated’s anticipated defection means all six horses with an allotted weight of 10st 6lb are now set to get into the final field of 34.

As Glengouly, Galia Des Liteaux and Panda Boy are rated 146, all three were already guaranteed a starting berth, but the same could not be said of Eklat De Rire, Chambard and Kitty’s Light.

As that trio have all been dropped 1lb to an official rating of 145 since the weights were unveiled in February, connections faced an anxious wait and a potential random ballot to decide which two of the three would creep in at the bottom if none of the horses above them were taken out.

Christian Williams, trainer of last year’s Scottish Grand National and bet365 Gold Cup hero Kitty’s Light, admitted to being relieved that barring a late change of mind from Elliott, that will no longer be the case.

He said: “It’s great that he’ll get in now, it’s good for the owners. The whole season has been geared towards the Grand National so it’s great that we’ve got in.

“The owners have been looking at it for the last three weeks and had everything upside down. They’ve been thinking about it for the last three weeks and I just stayed out of it.

“I think Gordon declared Conflated for the Bowl this morning, so one of the owners rang me and said ‘brilliant Chris, we’re in’, then Gordon took him back out! Anyway, it sounds like he’s running on Friday hopefully.”

Of Kitty’s Light, he added: “He’s flying, it’s just a shame with the ground because when we had him in a good place last year the ground was good and it looks like it will be heavy on Saturday.

“He might still have won the Scottish National last year if it was soft, you don’t really know do you? You can’t discount him on the ground until he actually goes out there as when we’ve run him on that sort of ground before we didn’t have him in the best of form and it wouldn’t have been his ideal trip.

“When he’s had his ideal trip it’s been in the spring and that’s when the ground has been good. We’ll see how he runs on heavy ground in the spring – there’s only one way to find out.”

Jerome Reynier’s Lazzat maintained his unbeaten record with a taking Group success at Deauville in the Prix Djebel.

The three-year-old came into the race with a record of three wins from three runs, all of which were at Cagnes-Sur-Mer earlier this year.

No horse had ever got within three and a half lengths of him ahead of the Deauville Group Three and he had a Listed victory to his name having taken the Prix de la Californie last time out.

In a field of seven he was the 4-6 favourite and justified that price when impressing with a straightforward two-and-a-half-length victory over the Aga Khan’s Keran, with the David Menuisier-trained Devil’s Point another five lengths away in third.

“It was a change of scenery with a seven-furlong straight course and he didn’t mind it at all,” said Reynier.

“He doesn’t need anyone, today he went in front and off he goes. He won in good style and the time was much faster than the fillies (in the Prix Impudence).

“He came back and he was not even blowing at all, he’s got plenty left in the tank. He’s a very exciting prospect for this year.”

On next targets for the Territories gelding Reynier added: “There are two Group Threes, either the Prix Paul de Moussac at Longchamp in early June or Royal Ascot for the Jersey Stakes.

“We will see depending on the opposition for the Group race in Paris, because he’s got the French premiums it could be easier to keep him in France and try the easiest option with him.

“He is a gelding and we will see afterwards what we can do, we would be very excited to send him to Goodwood for the Sussex.

“We have Facteur Cheval aiming for the race as well, so we’re going to be like a French invasion coming across the Channel!”

Charlie Appleby’s Romantic Style cemented her French Classic credentials with victory in the Prix Imprudence.

The Night Of Thunder filly won twice as a juvenile, taking a Yarmouth novice and then finishing her season with success in the Listed Bosra Sham Stakes at Newmarket.

She was stepping up to seven furlongs in heavy ground in France, where she also faced a step up in grade when running at Group Three level for the first time.

Neither factor could hinder her, however, and under William Buick she prevailed by half a length from Christopher Head’s well-regarded filly Ramatuelle.

“I’m delighted, she’s a filly that we’d spoken about for this race for a while,” Appleby told Sky Sports Racing.

“Stepping up to a mile will be her maximum trip and we felt that if we had stayed at home and gone to Newbury for an English trial it would have been closer to an English Guineas, but I don’t think she’ll stay a mile over the English trip at Newmarket.

“We thought we’d be better coming here and it gives her more time between now and the French Guineas.

“William was delighted, said she was fresh but travelled sweetly in his hands.

“She did it all the right way round, she did travel but she travelled sensibly in behind a horse there and when she picked up I always felt they were going to be doing enough to stay in front.

“She’s a filly that’s got a natural pace in her pedigree, but she does give herself a chance to stay a mile. Coming back for the French Guineas will be our aim and that will probably be her maximum trip.”

Nicky Henderson expects to know by Thursday evening whether his horses are over whatever was ailing them during the Cheltenham Festival, with Sir Gino and Shishkin all set for Aintree.

Henderson endured a miserable week in the Cotswolds and after racing on Wednesday of that week decided discretion was the better part of valour, pulling out all of his high-profile runners.

“Rather like before Cheltenham we’ve kept testing them and just like then, everything is fine – that’s the only worry really. It keeps telling us everything is fine,” said Henderson.

“The horses seem really well in themselves, the last work has all been done, they seem bright and perky and we’re looking forward to it.

“We’re going to know our fate pretty quickly. By Thursday night it will either be happening or it won’t be happening. Obviously we go with a fair amount of trepidation, but things seemed to have improved dramatically from the perspective of their work and everything at home.

“We’ve hardly run anything, but the two reasons we haven’t run anything, for instance at Hereford today I couldn’t make an entry on the card – I couldn’t find a horse who was qualified to run in any race, and of course the ground is desperate, so we’ll start at Aintree.”

After a quiet 10 days the Seven Barrows handler has been building them back up to peak fitness and Sir Gino, who had been odds-on for the Triumph Hurdle, will be first to test the water in the Boodles Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle.

“He was a horse that I honestly couldn’t find anything wrong with him, but we’d lost all confidence and I couldn’t face running a young horse like him,” Henderson told Sky Sports Racing.

“We’ve made no bones about it, we think he’s seriously good and I just couldn’t risk him. Joe Donnelly was wonderful because we had to take Sir Gino, Shishkin and Shanagh Bob out, all his, but there was no point in running them after the first two days.

“I trust in this fellow and he’s going to go out there carrying the Seven Barrows flag and I’m sure everyone is going to watch him like a hawk – I hope for all the right reasons.

“He won at Auteuil and as everybody knows, if you can handle that you can handle most things, and it was pretty soft on Trials day (at Cheltenham).”

Shishkin will then get his chance to shine in the Aintree Bowl having missed the Gold Cup.

“The last week seems to have been great, Nico (de Boinville) rode him in his last piece of work on Saturday and said he felt fantastic and he’s looked up for it all this week.

“I just think everything has gone right, but he’s had a funny old year. He didn’t start, then he threw away the King George and then he won the Denman. Whatever anybody’s opinion of the King George doesn’t matter, he was still running a great race. The Denman was more than an ideal preparation for the Gold Cup, but here we are in the same place so hopefully all systems go.”

Henderson also runs the mares Luccia and Marie’s Rock in the William Hill Aintree Hurdle.

He said: “Luccia was the one bright light at Cheltenham. The Champion Hurdle had fallen apart as far as we were concerned without Constitution Hill, but Luccia ran a fantastic race when she was a very close third.

“The only thing here is we are going up half a mile. We haven’t thought about it a lot and always felt she wouldn’t stay, but one day you have to try and if she does stay from next season’s point of view it gives her so many more options. The alternative was to wait for Punchestown and walk into Lossiemouth.

“Marie’s Rock is between here and the three-miler, but in this sort of ground two and a half will be plenty for her. She’s got stamina and goes in the soft, but it’s a very tough race.”

The well-fancied Kitty’s Light appears almost certain to make the cut for Saturday’s Randox Grand National after Gordon Elliott revealed top-weight Conflated will instead run in the Melling Chase at Aintree on Friday.

Conflated was one of 13 Elliott-trained horses still in contention for Saturday’s main event following the confirmation stage on Monday, but owners Gigginstown House Stud later said the prospect of running under 11st 12lb on testing ground over four and a quarter miles was a major concern.

The 10-year-old was also entered for Thursday’s Aintree Bowl over three miles and a furlong, but was not declared on Tuesday morning and is instead set to run over two and a half miles the following day.

“We had the option of the Aintree Bowl and the Grand National, but with the ground going the way it is we are going to run in the Melling Chase on Friday instead,” Elliott said in a stable tour for Attheraces.com.

“I thought he ran great in the Ryanair Chase (at Cheltenham, finished third), he hit the line well and I was very happy with his run.”

Conflated’s anticipated defection means all six horses with an allotted weight of 10st 6lb are now set to get into the final field of 34.

As Glengouly, Galia Des Liteaux and Panda Boy are rated 146, all three were already guaranteed a starting berth, but the same could not be said of Eklat De Rire, Chambard and Kitty’s Light.

As that trio have all been dropped 1lb to an official rating of 145 since the weights were unveiled in February, connections faced an anxious wait and a potential random ballot to decide which two of the three would creep in at the bottom if none of the horses above them were taken out.

Christian Williams, trainer of last year’s Scottish Grand National and bet365 Gold Cup hero Kitty’s Light, admitted to being relieved that barring a late change of mind from Elliott, that will no longer be the case.

He said: “It’s great that he’ll get in now, it’s good for the owners. The whole season has been geared towards the Grand National so it’s great that we’ve got in.

“The owners have been looking at it for the last three weeks and had everything upside down. They’ve been thinking about it for the last three weeks and I just stayed out of it.

“I think Gordon declared Conflated for the Bowl this morning, so one of the owners rang me and said ‘brilliant Chris, we’re in’, then Gordon took him back out! Anyway, it sounds like he’s running on Friday hopefully.”

Of Kitty’s Light, he added: “He’s flying, it’s just a shame with the ground because when we had him in a good place last year the ground was good and it looks like it will be heavy on Saturday.

“He might still have won the Scottish National last year if it was soft, you don’t really know do you? You can’t discount him on the ground until he actually goes out there as when we’ve run him on that sort of ground before we didn’t have him in the best of form and it wouldn’t have been his ideal trip.

“When he’s had his ideal trip it’s been in the spring and that’s when the ground has been good. We’ll see how he runs on heavy ground in the spring – there’s only one way to find out.”

Coral make Kitty’s Light a 14-1 shot for the National in their non-runner money back market, with last year’s winner Corach Rambler the 4-1 favourite ahead of I Am Maximus at 7-1.

Scott Dixon was left to reflect on what for him proved an “incredibly strange” last race at Wolverhampton on Monday night, where only two runners eventually lined up after a false start.

The stalls did not seem to open when the starter’s flag fell in the closing Download The Racecourse App Raceday Ready Handicap but then released moments later, causing the starter to wave his flag to signal a false start.

By that point the horses were already a stride or two into the seven-furlong race and though the call to pull up appeared to spread fairly quickly, that was easier said than done for many of the riders.

Sue Gardner’s Kimifive and Dixon’s Mudlahhim were already locking horns and several other horses were reluctant to stop behind them.

The rules state horses are automatically withdrawn if they complete the course after the false start flag is waved, meaning all eight horses that crossed the line could not then partake in the rerun of the race. Oriental Spirit’s trainer Stuart Kittow decided not to take part after his horse ran keenly before being pulled up near the line, adding to earlier non-runner Captain Wentworth.

Eventually only two horses lined up for the delayed running, with Dixon’s other runner A Pint Of Bear losing out by three-quarters of a length to an old stablemate in John O’Shea’s Rose Fandango.

“It was an incredibly rare situation, from what I can gather the stalls didn’t open when they pressed the button,” Dixon said.

“I’ve watched the race back and I think it was all of them, it wasn’t a select few.

“The rule is if you cross the line you’re out and there were some horses that just couldn’t pull up and one of those was definitely mine.

“I had two runners, I had Mudlahhim and A Pint Of Bear. Mudlahhim is an unbelievably keen horse in his home work and he can be in his races. He just thought he was in a race.

“When my assistant and I saw what happened we both looked at each other and said there was zero chance of getting him back before the finishing line.

“Ultimately that’s what happened, him and another horse did another circuit and they were just taking each other on which wasn’t helping matters.”

The matter has been forwarded to the British Horseracing Authority for review after all riders, the starters, the starting stalls team leader, clerk of the course Fergus Cameron and others were interviewed and shown recordings of the incident.

“It was just incredibly strange, and to make it even stranger for me was that the horse we ended up in a match race with, Rose Fandango, I used to train,” Dixon added.

“His last win was with me, so it got even weirder! I ran down to the start and saw A Pint Of Bear myself to make sure he was all right.

“Phil (Dennis, jockey) and I thought he was fine and he was looked at by the vet and he was all good to go.

“It’s not going to be ideal for any of them but he was 100 per cent fine to run, we made the decision to let him have a go and sadly for us we lost the match race.

“All the horses were fine and all the jockeys were fine and that’s all that matters, really.

“It seems like it was a mechanical fault, which ultimately can just happen, and even human error is always going to happen occasionally.

“It’s just one of those things, you’ve got to feel sorry for people with horses that couldn’t run – they have spent the money and taken the time to go, it is very unfortunate but it is just one of those things.”

David Menuisier is not losing heart after Sunway’s beaten run in the Prix la Force at ParisLongchamp on Sunday.

The Galiway colt, who is a full-brother to Champion Stakes winner Sealiway, won the Group One Criterium International at Saint-Cloud and was second in the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster last season.

The former run was on very soft autumn ground and he encountered heavy going at the weekend when making his seasonal debut in the Group Three Prix la Force.

His prior form contributed to his status as the 3-5 favourite under Oisin Murphy, but the bay could only finish fifth when beaten two and three-quarter lengths by Atlast.

Menuisier felt the way the race panned out did not play to his horse’s strengths, but is happy to have the run under Sunway’s belt ahead of bigger targets throughout the year.

“I think the pace was a bit too slow, Oisin kicked himself after the race thinking that they were absolutely hacking and finished on a sprint,” he said.

“Stamina wasn’t really tested, the horse was a little bit rusty when they quickened and then he kind of went again.

“We noticed after the race that he got struck into on his left-fore tendon by another horse, probably the winner when he came past us.

“I’m not saying that was the cause of the defeat, it was more a combination of things, it’s like being tackled in the Achilles tendon for football players, it hurts at the time.

“On the whole the horse was only at 80 per cent, it was a prep race. He was always going to improve for it, he was not beaten far.

“I can’t say that I’m happy with the situation, but we need to think from a bigger perspective. I don’t think it was complete chaos, we’ll live to fight another day.

“He needed the race, that’s the principle of having trial races and he’s still a good horse and he hasn’t lost anything in defeat.”

Sunway is entered in the Poule d’Essai des Poulains, the French 2000 Guineas, and the Dante at York, though which path he will take is not yet decided as the dust still settles.

Menusuier said: “We will move forward, it is too early to say what we will do next – whether we go for the Poule d’Essai over one mile or whether we step up in trip for the Dante or the Prix Greffulhe, I don’t know.

“My position hasn’t changed at all, it was a stepping stone whether he won or not.

“It was a race you could run countless times and get different results and I don’t think he was beaten by a better horse, he was beaten by the circumstances.”

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