Aintree racing is dominated by the 2012 Grand National, but Saturday’s card at the Merseyside track also has some other terrific highlights in store.
Champion Hurdle hero Rock On Ruby is the star of the pre-Grand National action as he aims to follow up his Cheltenham victory by taking the John Smith’s Aintree Hurdle.
But the Paul Nicholls-trained seven-year-old will not have things all his own way, being joint favourite with last year’s winner Oscar Whisky.
Nicholls also has a second string to his bow with Zarkandar, who was fifth in the Champion Hurdle, while Thousand Stars bids to go one better than last year when he failed by a neck to catch Oscar Whisky.
In terms of potential, no horse in training promises more for the future than Sprinter Sacre and the brilliant Arkle Challenge Cup winner will be a red-hot favourite for the Maghull Novices’ Chase.
Nicky Henderson’s six-year-old has the world at his feet and this should be a penalty kick to boost his handler’s quest of landing the jumps trainers’ championship.
The meeting should also get under way with another Henderson winner in the shape of Simonsig, who also shone brightly at the Cheltenham Festival.
The exciting grey stormed home in the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle and will be a warm order in the John Smith’s Mersey Novices’ Hurdle.
In the final Aintree action before the Grand National itself, Nicholls will fancy his chances of striking back at Henderson when Cheltenham Foxhunters runner-up Chapoturgeon aims to go one better in the John Smith’s Handicap Chase.
After the dust has settled on the Grand National, the conditional and amateur riders take centre stage in the John Smith’s Handicap Hurdle with Paintball bidding to follow up his Imperial Cup triumph.
The Grand National meeting concludes with the John Smith’s Champion Standard Open Bumper, in which Tony McCoy will bid to round off the meeting with a winner on Population.
Aintree Saturday race card
- 13:10 John Smith's Aintree Legends Charity Race (1m 5f, 13 runners)
- 13:45 John Smith's Mersey Novices' Hurdle (Grade 2) (Class 1, 2m 4f, 10 runners)
- 14:15 John Smith's Maghull Novices' Chase (Grade 1) (Class 1, 2m, 4 runners)
- 14:50 John Smith's Aintree Hurdle (Grade 1) (Class 1, 2m 4f, 6 runners)
- 15:25 John Smith's Handicap Chase (Listed) (Class 1, 3m 1f, 14 runners)
- 16:15 John Smith's Grand National Chase (Grade 3 Handicap) (Class 2, 4m 4f, 40 runners)
- 17:05 John Smith's Handicap Hurdle (Conditional Jockeys And Amateur Riders) (Class 2, 2m 110y, 22 runners)
- 17:35 John Smith's Champion Standard Open NH Flat Race (Grade 2) (Class 1, 2m 1f, 20 runners)