For the first time in two years, we can finally say it: the Grand National Festival is here.
With four Grade 1’s and a return to the National fences with amateur’s back in the plate following their absence from the Cheltenham Festival, it’s a thrilling start to three days of top-quality jumps racing on Merseyside.
Undoubtedly, the main attraction of the day will be the Betway Bowl, which sees 2018 Gold Cup hero Native River line up against two-time Grand National winner Tiger Roll, who was withdrawn from Saturday’s feature as a result of the weight he would carry.
To add some extra spice to the renewal, duel King George hero Clan Des Obeaux represents Paul Nicholls, with former Ascot Chase winner Waiting Patiently making his second appearance at the Liverpool track.
The mouth will also be frothing ahead of a hot Betway Aintree Hurdle, which sees Olly Murphy’s National Spirit winner Brewin’upastorm make his return to the top-level over timber following efforts over fences.
He is undefeated since returning to the smaller obstacles and dished out a heavy-beating on McFabulous at Fontwell in February, albeit in receipt of 6lbs.
Abacadbras fell in the Champion Hurdle but did win a Grade 1 at Punchestown earlier this campaign and steps up in trip, with International winner Song For Someone in the lineup for Tom Symonds and David Bass.
Two-time Champion Hurdler Buveur D’Air won this race in 2017, but will now have the likes of Jason The Militant, Silver Streak, and stable-mate Buzz to contend with on Thursday.
The day, however, begins with the SSS Super Alloys Manifesto Novices’ Chase and features a stellar cast of two-and-a-half mile hopefuls.
Fusil Raffles finished behind Chantry House in the Marsh at Cheltenham, and now faces competition from Hitman and recent British hat-trick hero The Shunter, who will be saddled for a fourth success across the Irish Sea by Emmet Mullins.
Also in contention are Arkle second Eldorado Allen and Greatwood winner Umbrigado.
In the Doom Bar Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle, Monmiral makes his racecourse reappearance after an unbeaten start since his switch from France.
He saw off Gary Moore’s Nassalam with ease at Haydock two months ago, but the likeable Adagio now stands in his way after a fine second in the Triumph to Quilixios at the Cheltenham Festival in March for David Pipe.
Donald McCain’s Fiveandtwenty is another unbeaten sort and she receives 3lbs from her male counterparts under Brian Hughes.
In the Rose Paterson Randox Foxhunters’ Open Hunters’ Chase, recent Festival winner Will Biddick returns to the plate under Paul Nicholls’ Sametegal, who takes on the fellow Ditcheat-trained Cat Tiger and David Maxwell.
Cheltenham runner-up Billaway represents Willie Mullins and Closutton once again for son Patrick, with Jamie Codd aboard Denise Foster’s Mighty Stowaway.
Racing commences on Thursday at 1:45pm, with the Grand National taking place on Saturday at 5:15pm.