Grand National 2018: Aintree ready for big race as three female jockeys seek history


Riding is ‘the feeling I live for’ – Frost prepares for National debut
Randox Health Grand National
Venue: Aintree Date: 14 April Grand National: 17:15 BST
Coverage: BBC Radio 5 live, sports extra and live updates on the BBC Sport website More details

Three female jockeys are seeking a place in history as they prepare to line up for the rain-hit Grand National at Aintree on Saturday.

Katie Walsh, Bryony Frost and Rachael Blackmore are bidding to become the first woman to ride the National winner in this, its 171st running.

The bookmakers’ favourites for the National include Total Recall, Anibale Fly, Blaklion and Tiger Roll.

An estimated £150m is wagered on the race.

There will be 600 million people following worldwide and around 70,000 at the Merseyside course.

After rain in the build-up to the meeting, the going on the National track was described on Friday as heavy, soft in places.

This will make the race, over four and a quarter miles and 30 fences, even more of a challenge than usual, while punters look out for horses with proven form on soft ground.

Minella Rocco, Vicente and Beeves were withdrawn because of the conditions on Friday, meaning reserves Thunder And Roses and Delusionofgrandeur run instead.

Walk In The Mill was also promoted into the race on Friday, then withdrawn – along with Regal Encore – on the morning of the race.

Jockeys Katie Walsh, Bryony Frost and Rachael Blackmore pose together at The Chair

Can a woman make history?

One contender who should appreciate the conditions is Baie Des Isles, backed down from 33-1 to around 16-1 earlier in the week.

The grey mare is the mount of Walsh, who achieved the highest placing by a female jockey when third on Seabass in 2012, and rides for her trainer husband Ross O’Sullivan.

“I just can’t wait. This is my sixth National and you just need luck in running,” Walsh, 33, told BBC Radio 5 live.

“To be a part of the whole thing is a fairytale. It’s all we’ve been talking about the last couple of weeks and we’re looking forward to it.

“I don’t look at myself as a female heading out to the National. I just see myself as a jockey.”

Frost rides Milansbar while Blackmore will be aboard Alpha Des Obeaux as three women ride in the race for the first time in 30 years.

Grand National odds
10-1 Anibale Fly, Blaklion,
11-1 Total Recall, Tiger Roll
16-1 Seeyouatmidnight, Baie Des Iles, The Last Samuri
20-1 Captain Redbeard, Ucello Conti, I Just Know 25-1 Bar
(Approximate prices as of 17:00 BST, Friday 13 April)

Tips from BBC Radio 5 live team

Correspondent Cornelius Lysaght

1 Seeyouatmidnight 2 Baie Des Iles 3 Houblon Des Obeaux 4 I Just Know

Seeyouatmidnight won’t mind the rain-soaked conditions, has a very fair weight for a horse with a bit of ‘class’ about him and whose stamina isn’t in doubt, and he comes here a fresh horse after just one run in a year. Slight concern: how likely is it that Scotland will win two years running after a long gap, though maybe they’re like buses…

Reporter Gina Harding

1 Seeyouatmidnight 2 Ucello Conti 3 Total Recall 4 Captain Redbeard

Seeyouatmidnight has proved his stamina, finishing third in a Scottish National, is well weighted, will handle any ground and has an excellent chance of clinching the big race for Scotland for the second year running.

Commentator Matt Hill

1 Gas Line Boy 2 Tiger Roll 3 Baie Des Iles 4 Blaklion

I think Gas Line Boy will see out the trip of more than four miles and he’s a foolproof jumper, which you need for this unique test.

Commentator Gary O’Brien

1 Gas Line Boy 2 Anibale Fly 3 Total Recall 4 Ucello Conti

Anibale Fly is my pick of the Irish runners but at a much bigger price I like Aintree specialist Robbie Dunne’s mount Gas Line Boy each-way. He ran a super race to be fifth last year after being hampered a couple of times and looked better than ever when winning over the National fences in December.

Jockey Andrew Thornton

1 Saint Are 2 Baie Des Iles 3 Blaklion 4 The Last Samuri

I like Saint Are as he’s been around the course several times before and loves the Grand National fences.

Runners must negotiate 30 fences over more than four miles

Testing conditions in store

The National, which has £1m of prize money, is a handicap chase, with each runner allotted a different weight to carry by the official handicapper Phil Smith.

After the withdrawal of Minella Rocco, Blakion now heads the weights with 11st 10lb.

With 30 fences to tackle – including Becher’s Brook and The Chair – the testing conditions might help horses with lower weights.

Organisers say they will not be complacent over welfare after all Grand National runners returned safely for the fifth consecutive time last year.

The National attracted criticism after two horses died in both the 2011 and 2012 editions.

New softer plastic core fence structures were introduced as part of a package of measures costing £1.5m and the race’s distance was reduced.

There were no serious injuries to horses from 317 runners in 21 races at the 2017 meeting.

But Lilbitluso, a 10-year-old trained by John O’Shea, was put down after falling at the Canal Turn in the Foxhunters’ Chase on the opening day of this year’s fixture.

Racecard honour for Edie

A three-year-old girl with a rare brain tumour has been given an honorary place on the racecard for this year’s Grand National.

Edie Molyneux, from Liverpool, who has the 41st spot in Saturday’s race at Aintree, is listed as Spider-Ede, after her favourite superhero Spider-Man.

Edie is in Mexico for treatment after her family said UK doctors told them her tumour was inoperable.

Bradley Lowery, 5, who died in July had the first honorary spot last year.

Police confident despite match clash

Merseyside Police insist they are confident of coping with Liverpool playing at home just minutes after the Grand National starts at 17:15 BST.

The Premier League match against Bournemouth at Anfield has been chosen for live TV coverage and will kick off at 17:30.

Aintree is set for a crowd of about 70,000 while Anfield can expect 53,000 fans.

Chief constable Andy Cooke said: “I’m confident people will have a good time, they will be safely policed and I don’t foresee any problems.”

Saturday schedule

Live coverage (all times BST)

11:00-18:00: 5 live build-up to the Grand National and commentaries of races around live football coverage.

13:30-18:00 Live updates, commentary, photos and analysis on the BBC Sport website

Racecard

13:45: Gaskells Handicap Hurdle 3m ½f

14:25: Betway Mersey Novices’ Hurdle 2m 4f

15:00: Doom Bar Maghull Novices’ Steeple Chase 2m

15:40: Betway Handicap Steeple Chase 3m 1f

16:20: Ryanair Stayers’ Hurdle 3m ½f

17:15: Randox Health Grand National Steeple Chase 4m 2½f

18:20: Pinsent Masons Handicap Hurdle 2m ½f



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