Day One Aintree Grand National Festival Preview 2023

James Mackie | @JMackieRacing

Aintree - April 12 2023
Aintree 12:45
J J Slevin


J: J J Slevin
T: Joseph Patrick O'Brien
Age: 7
Weight: 11-7
OR: 152
Days: 68

The first race of the 2023 Aintree Grand National Festival is the Grade One Manifesto Novices' Chase over 2m4f and Banbridge looks the class act.

A very smart hurdler for Joseph O'Brien winning in January at Navan over two miles when beating Au Fleuron and then off a mark of 137 landed the 23 runner Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle at the 2022 Cheltenham festival in good style.

Sent chasing this term he made an emphatic seasonal debut at Gowran Park over 2m4f when winning by close to 9 lengths and dropped back in trip last time out at Cheltenham he jumped his opposition into the ground to take the Grade Two Arkle Trial at Cheltenham.

Going back up in trip in the Grade One Drinmore Novice Chase at Fairyhouse in December, the deluge of rain before the off hindered his chances but he still ran a cracker to finish third behind Mighty Potter and Gaillard Du Mesnil who have both franked the form since.

Seen just once more to date at the DRF when managing to stay on into second behind El Fabiolo who also franked the form in the Arkle at the Cheltenham Festival.

Having missed the Cheltenham festival because of the soft ground he won't want the rain that could fall but even not on his favoured conditions he looks the one to beat for us.

Aintree - April 12 2023
Aintree 13:20
Paddy Brennan


J: Paddy Brennan
T: Fergal O'Brien
Age: 4
Weight: 10-9
OR: 121
Days: 16

Another Grade One follows and it sees the 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle and we are taking a chance on the filly Greyval for trainer Fergal O'Brien.

A horse that came from the flat that since changing codes has turned her career inside out, especially under this handler, being seen three times and winning two of her three events.

Making her hurdles debut in December at Doncaster when a good second behind the talented Arclight for Nicky Henderson, she has since gone on to land back to back races at Doncaster and Huntingdon.

She reversed the form with Arclight next time out and then went to Huntingdon on soft ground and beat a nice type in Golden Glance under a penalty.

She is versatile when it comes to good/soft ground and with the form of her latest win working out she now deserves her chance in this company and enjoying the softer conditions could play to her strengths.

She has a lot to find on ratings but she looks highly progressive.

Aintree - April 12 2023
Aintree 13:55
Harry Cobden


J: Harry Cobden
T: Paul Nicholls
Age: 8
Weight: 11-10
OR: 172
Days: 27

The feature race of the afternoon at Aintree on day one of the festival is the Grade One Aintree Bowl over 3m1f and Bravemansgame is the horse they all have to beat.

Bravemansgame has looked a completely different horse this season, a more rounded and professional version of himself that can now be counted as one of the leading staying chasers in the sport at the moment.

Always showing bits of superb form throughout his career over hurdles but more so over fences, this term he has put it all together landing the Grade Two Charlie Hall Chase on seasonal debut before going to Kempton on Boxing Day and showing that he truly finishes out his races now when beating L’Homme Presse comfortably after the last.

Not seen since then until the Cheltenham Gold Cup, there were still question marks whether he would handle the step up in trip and the track, but he ran an absolute screamer jumping the best in the field and just up the hill was beaten by the superstar Galopin Des Champs.

There is no Galopin Des Champs in this field and although Conflated ran a cracker in the Gold Cup, A Plus Tard looked to be back somewhere near his best before hitting some bad luck and Shishkin at the top of the market will certainly appreciate the step up in trip.

For us Bravemansgame this season has shown by far the best solid form over this staying trip and although Aintree has not been a happy hunting ground for him over the years, this term he looks a different animal and where he has came here and underperformed, we think he can show the same form he has all season.

Aintree - April 12 2023
Aintree 14:30
Davy Russell


J: Davy Russell
T: Gordon Elliott
Age: 6
Weight: 11-10
OR: 159
Days: 30

The final Grade One of the afternoon at Aintree on Thursday is the Aintree Hurdle over 2m4f and with Constitution Hill not a betting proposition at the top of the market we have looked for a horse from an each way angle, or without the fav.

The horse we are siding with is the Gordon Elliott trained Zanahiyr, who bounced back to form in the Champion Hurdle when last seen and only being six years old has more scope than most to keep improving.

Set to run a cracker alongside Epatante when jumping the last in this race last year but unfortunately falling, Epatante probably would have still won that day but it would have been close.

Zanahiyr, lost his way after that fall, coming back this season and posting some very strange efforts over all of 2m, 2m4f and 3m.

He bounced back in a big way at The Cheltenham Festival at a huge price of 66/1 when staying on late up the hill to grab third behind Constitution Hill and State Man, in the end only being beaten by four lengths behind the second.

Ridden off the pace again, staying on over the extra distance will play to his strengths again and at 14/1 he looks the most viable option to to fill the places especially in soft conditions.

Aintree - April 12 2023
Aintree 15:05
Mr B O'Neill

Winged Leader

J: Mr B O'Neill
T: D M Christie
Age: 9
Weight: 12-0
OR: 139
Days: 391

Next up is the Foxhunters' Open Hunters' Chase and we have picked out two selections that according to form and the market should go close.

The first is the Irish raider Winged Leader who really bounced onto the scene in this division last year when finishing a neck second at the 2022 Cheltenham festival in the Hunters Chase, making nearly every yard but being collared on the line by the game Billaway.

Since then he has not been seen under rules, instead running in three PTPs and winning all of them comfortably, the latest victory on soft/heavy ground by 28 lengths.

The softer the better for this horse and having got tired at Cheltenham last season over 3m 2 1/2f, this trip of 2m5f will play to his strengths.

Aintree - April 12 2023
Aintree 15:05
Miss Gina Andrews


J: Miss Gina Andrews
T: T Ellis
Age: 10
Weight: 12-0
OR: 140
Days: 371

Another horse who takes the eye in the Foxhunters' is last years winner in the race Latenightpass, who similarly to Winged Leader has not been seen under rules since his victory at Aintree.

A superb winner of this race last term under a great ride by Gina Andrews who takes the ride again, this horse revels at the this track and in this race having been second in this event the year before that.

Seen three times in PTPs this term, finishing second on seasonal debut behind the progressive Shantou Flyer who has franked the form all season, Latenightpass has gone on to win his last two events well.

Both those wins would have been stepping stones for this event and he can go close again.

Aintree - April 12 2023
Aintree 15:40
Stephen Mulqueen

Douglas Talking

J: Stephen Mulqueen
T: Lucinda Russell
Age: 7
Weight: 11-0
OR: 134
Days: 37

The penultimate event of the afternoon on Thursday at Aintree is the Grade Three Red Rum Handicap Chase and we are giving a chance to the unexposed Douglas Talking for Lucinda Russell.

Since the turn of the year this horse has really got his act together winning off a mark of 118 at Ayr on good to soft ground with ease and then making it back to back wins next time out at Sandown.

That win saw him see off a very smart type in Gamaret by 13 lengths off a mark of 124 and although 10lb higher today he looks to be very progressive of late and can take another step forward.

Aintree - April 12 2023
Aintree 16:15
Harry Cobden


J: Harry Cobden
T: Paul Nicholls
Age: 5
Weight: 11-2
Days: 40

The final event of the afternoon sees the Grade Two Mares' bumper over 2m1f won by the progressive Ashroe Diamond last season and in this year's renewal we have dutched the field.

Our first selection is the very exciting Seeyouinmydreams for Paul Nicholls with the five year old mare not putting a foot wrong in her career so far.

A winner of a 3m PTP at Largy in April 2022 by 15 lengths, she was then bought for 235,000gns and given to Nicholls for well known owners Mason, Hogarth, Ferguson, Done and McGoff.

Given her first spin under rules in a bumper at Newbury at the start of May, she ran out an 11 length winner never having to come off the bridle.

She could be a very big talent but will have to face conditions softer than she has before in her life.

Aintree - April 12 2023
Aintree 16:15
Rachael Blackmore

July Flower

J: Rachael Blackmore
T: Henry De Bromhead
Age: 4
Weight: 10-8
Days: 139

A filly in the field that will be getting weight for age allowance and will love the ground if it turn up soft/heavy is the Henry De Bromhead trained July Flower.

A french recruit who is unbeaten on both her starts to date when making a good debut at Durtal in October winning a 1m 6 1/2f bumper by close to five lengths.

Sent to Fontainebleau in November she made it back to back wins in a AQPS Grade One event beating Jesuba who last time out saw off the second favourite in this race for Willie Mullins Jolie Coeur Allen.

One to watch.