Friday 5th April is Ladies Day at Aintree’s Randox Health Grand National Festival with a fantastic seven-race programme headlined by four G1 contests and over £800,000 in prize money.
The most valuable contest on Ladies Day is the £250,000 G1 JLT Chase (3.25pm, 16 entries) over two and a half miles.
Paul Nicholls is closing in on an 11th Jump trainers’ championship and his two entries include Cyrname, who is the top-rated chaser currently in training in Britain with an official BHA rating of 178 following a stunning 17-length success over Waiting Patiently (Ruth Jefferson) in the G1 Betfair Ascot Chase in February.
The Somerset handler also has last year’s JLT Chase winner Politologue (pictured) engaged and the consistent eight-year-old looked as good as ever when chasing home Altior in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase over two miles at Cheltenham on 13th March.
Reigning champion Jump trainer Nicky Henderson is the most successful trainer in the JLT Chase with three winners and his two contenders are Janika and Top Notch, while the four Irish-trained possible challengers include three-time G1 winner Min (Willie Mullins) and Road To Respect (Noel Meade), who was a close third in the G1 Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham earlier this month.
There are 13 entries for the £100,000 Betway Mildmay Novices’ Chase (2.50pm) over three miles and a furlong.
Like A Butterfly (2005) is the only mare to win this race, but La Bague Au Roi (Warren Greatrex) holds strong claims to become the second in 2019. The daughter of Doctor Dino is unbeaten in four chase starts, which included when defeating subsequent G1 RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase first and second, Topofthegame (Paul Nicholls) and Santini, in the G1 32Red Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day. She was last seen when taking the G1 Flogas Novice Chase at Leopardstown, Ireland, in February.
Lambourn-based Warren Greatrex reported: “We have been really pleased with La Bague Au Roi since her win over in Ireland.
“Her win at Kempton obviously took another boost given how the RSA worked out. She is in great form and will probably do some more work and another school before Aintree.
“With the weather forecast as it is, the Mildmay Novices’ Chase is our preference (La Bague Au Roi is also entered in the Devenish Nutrition Manifesto Novices’ Chase on Grand National Thursday).”
Other leading contenders for the Betway Mildmay Novices’ Chase include Lostintranslation (Colin Tizzard), runner-up in the G1 JLT Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham, Mr Whipped (Nicky Henderson), not seen since winning well at Haydock Park in December, and dual G2 winner Bags Groove (Harry Fry).
Greatrex is also set to be represented in another of the G1 contests on Ladies Day with Emitom among 21 entries for the £100,000 Doom Bar Sefton Novices’ Hurdle (4.40pm, 21) over an extended three miles.
The five-year-old is undefeated in five career starts, with a pair of bumper victories last season supplemented by a trio of successes in novices’ hurdles this season at Ffos Las, Lingfield Park and Newbury.
Greatrex continued: “Emitom is also very well and it was a good performance to give away a double penalty at Newbury last time out.
“He knuckled down well that day and we’re looking to stepping him up in trip.”
The opposition to Emitom is headed by G1 Challow Novices’ Hurdle victor Champ (Nicky Henderson), who was second in the G1 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Henderson could also be represented by Downtown Getaway, not seen since scoring at Ascot in January, while another leading contender is Lisnagar Oscar (Rebecca Curtis), winner of the G2 Albert Bartlett Prestige Novices’ Hurdle by 10 lengths at Haydock Park in February.
Completing the G1 action of Ladies Day is the £100,000 Betway Top Novices’ Hurdle (2.20pm, 18 entries).
Irish trainer Joseph O’Brien has entered G1 JCB Triumph Hurdle fourth Fakir d’Oudairies and Band Of Outlaws, who captured the G3 Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Olly Murphy could be represented by G1 Sky Supreme Novices’ Hurdle third Itchy Feet along with Brewin’upastorm, fourth in the G1 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle.
Mister Fisher (Nicky Henderson) came home eight in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, but had previously landed the G2 Sky Bet Supreme Trial Rossington Main Novices’ Hurdle impressively at Haydock Park in February.
The race over the Grand National fences on Ladies Day is the £140,000 Randox Health Topham Handicap Chase (4.05pm, 45 confirmations).
Ultragold (10st 10lb, Colin Tizzard) has captured the Randox Health Topham Handicap Chase for the last two years and could try to emulate the only previous three-time winner of the race, Always Waining (2010, 2011 & 2012). The 11-year-old is also engaged in the £1-million Randox Health Grand National at Aintree the following day, Saturday 6th April.
Nicky Henderson is chasing a sixth victory in the two miles, five furlong and 19 yard contest and has five remaining entries, headed by top-weight and market leader Janika (11st 12lb). The six-year-old has finished second on all three starts since arriving at Seven Barrows, with his latest effort coming when runner-up in the G3 Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival on 14th March.
Henderson also is responsible for Valtor (11st 10lb), who also holds an entry in the Randox Health Grand National, O O Seven (11st 1lb), Divine Spear (9st 13lb) and Kilcrea Vale (9st 10lb). Paul Nicholls’ three remaining entries are Adrien Du Pont (11st 1lb), recent G3 Greatwood Gold Cup scorer San Benedeto (11st 4lb) and Warriors Tale (11st 1lb). Nicholls has won the Randox Health Topham Chase once before, with Gwanako scoring in 2008.
Cregg House was the most recent winner of the Randox Health Topham Handicap Chase to be trained in Ireland in 2005 and the seven remaining Irish-trained possibles include Cadmium (11st 2lb) and Polidam (10st 4lb), who both represent Willie Mullins.
Last year’s Irish Grand National victor General Principle (10st 8lb) features among two contenders from Gordon Elliott, while Call It Magic (9st 13lb, Ross O’Sullivan) and Peregrine Run (11st 1lb, Peter Fahey) could also line up.
Completing the action on Ladies Day are the ultra-competitive opening G3 Merseyrail Handicap Hurdle (1.45pm, 51 entries) over an extended three miles and the concluding £45,000 Weatherbys Racing Bank Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race (5.15pm, 19 entries).