The Aintree Festival is one of the most-anticipated National Hunt events on the racing calendar. The three-day extravaganza always delivers plenty of passion, entertainment and drama. The Merseyside track is a superb venue, and thousands of spectators descend on the course each and every year. The competitive racing attracts a plethora of top trainers and jockeys to the north west, and despite taking place just three weeks after the Cheltenham Festival, high-class and hugely competitive fields are commonplace. We have picked out three of the standout contests taking place at this year’s festival.
The Aintree Hurdle, which recently celebrated its 40th anniversary, is one of two Grade 1 events taking place on the opening day. This year there is £250,000 of prize money on offer, and a suitably competitive field is expected once again. The race was originally pencilled-in for the final day of the Aintree Festival, but was brought forward in 2013, and is now followed by the Grade 3 Red Rum Handicap Chase.
It is not uncommon for horses to arrive in Merseyside off the back of a run at the Cheltenham Festival, and this race tends to attract a handful of Champion Hurdle hopefuls. Buveur D’Air was the last runner to complete the double when landing the spoils in 2017. The Nicky Henderson hurdler went off 4/9 favourite, and showed no signs of fatigue, finishing five lengths ahead of Mytentoryours.
Ruby Walsh has five wins in the race, making the Irishman the most successful jockey in the Aintree Hurdle, and he is likely to return in 2019. His last victory came on board Annie Power three years ago, whilst the aforementioned Nicky Henderson has been victorious in four of the last eight renewals.
Ladies Day is always a terrific occasion, and Friday’s card is headlined by the Melling Chase. This Grade 1 national hunt event is run over two miles and four furlongs and is open to five-year-olds and above. Horses who were entered into the Ryanair Chase will often feature in this race.
Recent winners of the contest include Fox Norton, Gods Own and the hugely popular Sprinter Sacre. 2016 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Don Cossack was also victorious in the race, prior to his success in the Blue Riband event.
A high-quality field is expected once again, and this competitive event, which takes place over the sixteen fences, looks set to light up the second day of the 2019 Aintree Festival.
The Randox Health Grand National
This iconic steeplechase needs no introduction, the Randox Health Grand National is watched by millions of spectators across the world. It is always a hugely competitive event, and another forty-strong field will take to the Aintree turf on the final day of the festival.
The iconic race often throws up big-priced winners, and punters can find it difficult to narrow down this sizeable field. There are many online resources which provide bettors with Grand National 2019 tips, including BetFair, who have analysed some of the key runners in this year’s contest.
The 2018 winner Tiger Roll was amongst the favourites last year, and the Gordon Elliott-trained chaser is likely to return to the track in 2019 in a bid to defend his crown.
There are a number of iconic fences to overcome, with the likes of the Chair, Becher’s Brook and the Canal Turn helping to add significant drama to this historic contest.
The Aintree Festival is one of the highlights of the sporting calendar, and it is a chance for horse racing fans to enjoy some top-class action at the Merseyside track. There are many standout races taking place across the three days, with over £3.2 million in prize money available. It is no surprise that top-quality fields are again expected in 2019.