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In an iconic city where the eyes of the world watch horses create history, trainers in tears and riders become stars, heroes and legends. This is more than the world's greatest steeplechase. Because this is horse racing without an agenda, just a love of the sport. And of the occasion. But most of all, it’s a love of the people. Welcome to Opening Day at The Randox Grand National.
BANBRIDGE IS BACK
Racing at Aintree is an international institution. It grips audiences across the globe. And the opening race proved why.
Banbridge came out on top in an Irish shutout as he claimed the Grade 1 Racehorse Lotto Manifesto Novices’ Chase for Joseph O’Brien. His excellent start over fences continued as the 2-1 shot raced on the heels of the Turner’s Novices’ Chase Winner, Stage Star, for much of the two-and-a-half-mile journey before taking over halfway up the straight in the hands of JJ Slevin. Saint Roi came from further back in an attempt to launch a challenge after the final fence, but Banbridge was always doing enough in front and passed the post with a length and a half in hand.
THE BATTLE OF BO ZENITH AND ZENTA
The thrill at Aintree continued in the Jewson Anniversary 4YO Hurdle. 5-4 favourite Zenta edged out the gallant Bo Zenith in a thrilling climax which saw the filly confirmed winner in a photo finish.
Placed third as part of a Willie Mullins one-two-three-four in last month’s Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham, Zenta was the clear form pick. She travelled powerfully in midfield in the hands of Mark Walsh and moved towards the front end still running early in the home straight, at which point it looked a case of how far she would win by. But in Gary Moore’s dual winner Bo Zenith, she came up against a rival who refused to go down without a fight, setting up a titanic tussle on the run-in. But much to the delight of favourite-backers it was Zenta who had her head down when it mattered.
Endurance and agility prevail in the three mile test that is the Grade 1 Alder Hey Aintree Bowl. Top class chaser Shishkin, 7-4 favourite, kicked in the turbo to secure the victory to beat 4-1 Ahoy Senor.
Nicky Henderson's nine-year-old, under Nico De Boinville, showed he has plenty of stamina to get up and wear down long-time leader Ahoy Senor late on to land the Grade 1 contest. Having been a star two-miler, Shishkin has slowly been moving up in trip.
It wasn’t all plain sailing as Ahoy Senor looked likely to take gold after drawing clear between the final two fences, but as has been the case on a few occasions over the years, Shishkin saved his best for late in the day, thrusting home on the run-in to get up and beat Ahoy Senor by a length and a half.
SUPER SEVEN FOR CONSTITUTION HILL
Red Rum, Tiger Roll and Constitution Hill. Superstars of our sport, racing legends. Constitution Hill is firmly placing himself amongst racings upper echelons. Once again, his name was up in lights as he showcased his complete dominance of British and Irish hurdling with a fluent and effortless victory in the Aintree Hurdle.
Making the running under jockey Nico de Boinville, Constitution Hill jumped smartly and sharply before pulling away in the home straight with ease. He was in a completely different league to his rivals. Today's win brings up his seventh in as many starts under Rules meaning Nicky Henderson’s champion hurdler’s winning run continues.