Five Trainers To Watch Out For At Aintree

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PAUL NICHOLLS

It has been very well noted that Paul Nicholls has been in sensational form since the turn of the year - which included a five-timer at Ascot.

The Ditcheat master took his form to new lengths at the Cheltenham Festival three weeks ago, which included striking successes in the RSA Novices Chase with Topofthegame and Ryanair Chase victor Frodon.

Whilst the latter heads for an early summer holiday, the former (Topofthegame) looks set to renew his clash with La Bague Au Roi - who skipped the Festival, in the Betway Mildmway Novices Chase.

King George winner Clan Des Obeaux finished a gallant fifth in the Gold Cup and will seek retribution in the Betway Bowl which will certainly suit the seven-year-old, with a flatter more lenient track at hand.

Cyrname - officially the best horse in training before the Festival could be seen in the JLT Melling Chase alongside stablemate Politologue - who ran a cracker in the Champion Chase behind Altior.

These seem to be the players for Nicholls, as he may not even saddle a runner in the big race itself after his big hope Give Me A Copper was left a little sore after his tumble at Prestbury Park.

Nicholls - who landed a maiden Grand National success with Neptune Collonges in 2012, also has the interesting Christopher Wood at the other end of the spectrum, who will take the jump up in class to compete in the Grade One Doom Bar Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle.

GORDON ELLIOTT

Gordon Elliott could send a record number of horses to the Randox Health Grand National itself, with as many as twelve guaranteed a place in the top forty, but as for the rest of the three-day meeting, he has several leading chances.

Apple's Jade and Samcro both lead the invasion, but both have points to prove for differing reasons. The mare [AJ] had been immaculate from four starts this term over three various distances, before encountering difficulties - not for the first time at Cheltenham, in the Champion Hurdle won by Espoir D'Allen.

She was reported to have a dirty-scope post race, but after being beaten at Prestbury Park back in 2016, she dispatched a Grade One field in response by 41-lengths at Aintree, and would seek to do the same.

Samcro meanwhile - who could race side by side with his stablemate, his season has fallen apart since the get-go after finishing last season as the top novice hurdler around with a victory in the Ballymore.

The seven-year-old was replaced by Apple's Jade as the yard's and owner's representative in the Champion Hurdle mid-season, and eventually went onto scratch his entry in the Stayers too after taking longer than expected to overcome a lung infection.

One horse from the yard that owes absolutely nothing however is Tiger Roll, the favourite for the big race, who recorded a fourth successive Festival triumph in the Glenfarcas Chase last month.

Many would consider the tiger to have the best opportunity in recent times to break a record standing for over forty years, which has seen no repeat winner of the world's greatest steeplechase since the great Red Rum in the 70's.

It is safe to say that the roof will come off the Merseyside venue if he manages to follow up last year's memorable victory.

TOM GEORGE

Tom George is one of the emerging trainers in the game, and has to be respected going into the National meeting this weekend.

The Gloucestershire-based trainer has saddled ten winners from 72 possible runners at the Liverpool track over the past five years and has plenty of realistic possibilities in terms of winners.

He could be represented by the returning Summerville Boy in the Aintree Hurdle, who won the Supreme Novice twelve months ago. The seven-year-old suffered an injury following two disappointing runs this term, but George has indicated that he is ready to give a good account of himself again and get the punters back on his side.

Clondaw Castle finished a good fourth in the Arkle, and will drop in grade for the Close Brothers Red Rum Handicap Chase, whilst The World's End will take a stab at the Ryanair Stayers Trophy.

Crossed Fingers Partnership duo God's Own and Double Shuffle look to be heading towards the end of their respective careers, and both hold big-race entries - the former, a winner at the meeting back in 2016 in the Melling Chase after the legendary Vautour took an uncharacteristical tumble.

The Big Bite and Singlefarmpayment - also sharing the same ownership between them are potentials in the Betway Mersey Novices' Hurdle, and the Grand National itself for what is George's only runner.

DAN SKELTON

Dan Skelton has targeted 200 winners between now and the end of the season, and is another trainer at the top of his game at the minute.

Sitting on 180 winners before Monday's racing, Skelton landed his maiden Grade One success with Roksana, who latched onto victory in the OLBG Mares' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival after the unfortunate departure at the last for the Willie Mullins-trained Benie Des Dieux.

County Hurdle winner Ch'tibello takes a deserved big step up to Grade One company in the Aintree Hurdle, and may be possibly outclassed with so many big guns arriving, whilst Spiritofthegames is entered in the Manifesto and Mildmay Novices' Chases.

Rene's Girl, second to Finian's Oscar at the meeting last year, is another big name for Skelton - this time in the Grade One JLT Melling Chase, whilst Ferrobin may also jump to the top level to compete in the G1 Betway Mersey Novices' Hurdle.

Crunch time for the Skelton yard.

PHILIP KIRBY

Philip Kirby has been a man to follow this season and will send several young stars on the short trip to Aintree this weekend.

Last weekend began with the sour news that the recently purchased Blaklion will miss the Randox Health Grand National; leaving Kirby without a runner and will be a big disappointment to all his new connections who will have their fingers crossed for an injury-free campaign next year.

As for what he has left at the meeting, Lady Buttons and Top Ville Ben will fly the flags for the yard.

Lady Buttons who finished fourth to Roksana in the Mares had won four races this year; two over hurdles and two over fences. She has options over either at Aintree, will suit the track dimensions and will be a danger wherever she goes.

Top Ville Ben fell at a crucial stage in the RSA at Cheltenham, but with plenty of fuel left in reserves, he raced at Wetherby a week later and came through a convincing winner to put things right, when sinking his rivals by 37 lengths.

He will hold chances, as do Desaray Girl and Dares To Dream who will compete in the Grade Two Goffs UK Nickel Coin Mares' Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race.

Best of luck to Phil Kirby.

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