The 2012 John Smith’s Grand National meeting is now less than a week away and the countdown intensifies today with the publication of the entries for the opening day, Liverpool Day, Thursday, April 12.
Liverpool Day features a mouth-watering race programme with four Grade One contests, plus the John Smith’s Fox Hunters’ Chase over the Grand National fences.
The action gets starts at 2.00pm with the £100,000 BGC Partners Liverpool Hurdle (2.00pm) over an extended three miles. History could be made in the contest as the amazing Big Buck’s bids for his 17th consecutive victory over jumps, which would break the longstanding record set by Sir Ken in the 1950s. The nine-year-old equalled Sir Ken’s feat when winning the Ladbrokes World Hurdle for a record-breaking fourth time at Cheltenham last month. He has also won the past three renewals of the BGC Partners Liverpool Hurdle.
Big Buck’s will face a maximum of 11 rivals in the BGC Partners Liverpool Hurdle, who could include Time For Rupert, runner-up behind the Paul Nicholls-trained superstar at the Cheltenham Festival in 2010.
Time For Rupert, winner of a handicap hurdle over the same distance on his only previous visit to Aintree at the 2009 John Smith’s Grand National meeting, has been chasing for the past two seasons and ran a huge race on his latest appearance when fifth in the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup on March 16. The eight-year-old also has the possibility of lining up in the £150,000 Grade One Betfred Bowl (3.05pm) over three miles and a furlong at Aintree later on Liverpool Day..
Webber commented today: “Time For Rupert will probably go for the Betfred Bowl at Aintree but we thought it was worth also giving him an entry in the BGC Partners Liverpool Hurdle as things can change. We will consider the situation over the next few days and make a decision next week.
“He has been in tremendous form since Cheltenham and is really well. It is always difficult to tell at this time of year which horses are over the top because they don’t always show it home - they show you all the usual things but then go to the racecourse and run a bit flat. However, Time For Rupert does seem to be in very good form.
“I was very pleased with his run in the Gold Cup. I think that maybe we went a bit too quick up front which set it up for the others coming from behind, but we weren’t to know that at the time.
“Any sort of ground seems to suit and he has a 100 per cent record at Aintree - it would certainly be nice to keep that going!”
The Betfred Bowl promises to be a cracking race. In addition to Time For Rupert, the 16 entries include Riverside Theatre and Albertas Run, who fought out an amazing finish when first and second in the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham last month, as well as Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup fourth Burton Port. Another Cheltenham winner who could line up is the extraordinary Hunt Ball, who has risen 85lb in the weights this season, with seven victories to his name. Champion trainer Paul Nicholls has three entries to choose from including the 2010 winner of this race, What A Friend, as well as Tidal Bay and Poquelin. Other interesting contenders include this season’s Hennessy Gold Cup victor Carruthers, the Nicky Henderson-trained Master Of The Hall and Nacarat from the Tom George stable, winner of this race in 2011.
Betfred Bowl – sponsors bet: 3 Riverside Theatre, 4 Burton Port, 6 Medermit, 7 Albertas Run, 8 Nacarat, 10 Hunt Ball, Weird Al, 12 Poquelin, 14 Master Of The Hall, Time For Rupert, What A Friend, 16 Diamond Harry, 25 Carruthers, Follow The Plan, Tidal Bay, 33 Roberto Goldback.
“Nicky Henderson looks set to have a strong hand in Thursday’s Betfred Bowl with Riverside Theatre and Burton Port currently heading the market but Medermit could give them both something to think about with the step up in trip almost certain to suit,” said Betfred spokesman George Primarolo.
Countrywide Flame, successful in the JCB Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, tops 17 entries for the £100,000 Grade One Matalan Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle (2.30pm), which takes place over an extended two miles, while there are 14 entries for the £75,000 Grade One Betfred Manifesto Novices’ Chase (5.25pm) over two and a half miles including top performers Al Ferof, Champion Court, Cue Card, Menorah and Silviniaco Conti.
There are still 28 horses engaged in the £35,000 John Smith’s Fox Hunters’ Chase (3.40pm) over an extended two miles and five furlongs on the Grand National course, while there remainder of the card is made up of competitive handicap action - the £60,000 Grade Three matalan.co.uk Red Rum Handicap Chase over two miles (4.15pm, 24 entries) and the concluding £45,000 Grade Three Silver Cross Handicap Hurdle over an extended three miles (5.25pm, 65 entries).