The biggest day of the Grand National Festival is upon us, with the world’s greatest steeplechase featuring on the card at Aintree.
In the main event of an actioned-packed schedule of seven races, 40 runners will attempt to tackle the unique fences over the extended four-mile distances at 5.15 this afternoon.
Here are a trio of runners to consider for today’s racing at the Merseyside track.
NAP: Thyme Hill – Ryanair Stayers Hurdle (5/2 – Various)
With the Cheltenham finale called off due to Thyme Hill being withdrawn due to injury, the Stayers Trilogy concludes with Philip Hobbs’ talent taking on the mighty Paisley Park once more before the close of play this season.
The seven-year-old has already got the better of the staying superstar this season, beating Emma Lavelle’s runner in the Long Distance Hurdle.
The result would be overturned in the Grade 1 Long Walk Hurdle a month later, but Thyme Hill still looked strong when going down to Paisley Park by a neck.
Hobbs’ gelding looks a worthy favourite for the Ryanair Stayers Hurdle, and he is the one to beat here.
NB: Ballybegg – EFT Systems Handicap Hurdle (12/1 – bet365 + William Hill)
An improving sort from Kerry Lee’s yard, Ballybegg has impressed on his three starts over hurdles this season.
The six-year-old falls into several trends from previous winners in this contest as well.
Seven of the last 14 winners were novices, while 12 of the previous 16 victors were making a step up in trip.
Eight of the past nine winners were rated 137+ and eight of the last 10 to claim success here were carrying 11st or more.
If Ballybegg can show further progression here, then he could be worth some value at 12/1.
LONGSHOT: Pipesmoker – Betway Mersey Novices’ Hurdle (18/1 – PP + Betfair)
He may be the only maiden in this contest, but Pipesmoker has shown a fair amount of promise in his three starts over hurdles.
The six-year-old finished behind exciting sorts Chantry House and Sporting John on his first two starts over obstacles last season.
The gelding’s reappearance this term did not go to plan however and he was a beaten favourite at Sandown in February.
Nicky Henderson clearly still has confidence in Pipesmoker to throw him into Grade 1 company and that could hint at some each-way value at the very least.