Christian Williams’ anxious wait is over after his well-fancied Kitty’s Light snuck into the final line-up for the 2024 Randox Grand National.

Bidding to be the first Welsh-trained winner of the race since 1905, Kitty’s Light was one of a trio of National candidates left sweating after Monday’s confirmation stage.

Eklat De Rire, Chambard and Kitty’s Light were amongst a plethora of runners allotted a rating of 146 for the big race but with that trio seeing their official handicap mark dropped to a figure of 145 since the weights were unveiled in February, a random ballot would have been required to determine which two of the three would take their chance in the world’s most famous steeplechase.

However, as envisaged earlier in the week, the Melling Chase-bound Conflated came out of the race on Thursday meaning no ballot is required and all three of Eklat De Rire, Chambard and Kitty’s Light will face the starter on Saturday afternoon.

Conflated is the only absentee from the previous top 34, meaning 2022 winner Noble Yeats will carry the burden of top weight, with Gary Moore’s Welsh Grand National winner Nassalam next in, as he provides a first ride in the race for leading conditional Caoilin Quinn.

Defending champion Corach Rambler heads the betting as Lucinda Russell and jockey Derek Fox both seek a third win in the Aintree showpiece and the Cheltenham Gold Cup third bids to join the likes of Red Rum and Tiger Roll as a back-to-back Grand National winner.

Last year’s runner-up Vanillier is one of two in the race for Gavin Cromwell, who will also saddle Cheltenham Festival scorer Limerick Lace, the chosen mount of JP McManus’ retained rider Mark Walsh.

The Irish challenge is boosted by Willie Mullins’ eight contenders, with McManus-owned pair I Am Maximus and Meetingofthewaters both high up in the betting and bringing strong form claims.

Capodanno is another Closutton contender wearing green and gold, with Mr Incredible also among the market leaders for the perennial Irish champion trainer.

Panda Boy has the chance to give Martin Brassil a second victory in the race, while John McConnell will saddle his first-ever National contender in Coral Gold Cup second Mahler Mission.

Delta Work – third in 2022 – is the leading name amongst Gordon Elliott’s eight runners, with Henry de Bromhead’s Gold Cup winner Minella Indo set to be Rachael Blackmore’s mount and adds a touch of class to the contest.

As well as the previously mentioned Eklat De Rire, De Bromhead will also be represented by Ain’t That A Shame, the mount of amateur David Maxwell.

Former French champion jockey James Reveley will return to the Aintree fold aboard James Griffin’s Roi Mage, who was seventh in the race 12 months ago.

Dan Skelton’s game mare Galia Des Liteaux forms part of the small British challenge and is one of those towards the bottom of the weights with strong form on testing ground to her name.

Skelton also oversaw the preparations of Latenightpass on behalf of good friend Tom Ellis this season, with the 11-year-old set to be Ellis’ first ever runner as a licensed trainer after hastily joining the professional ranks for the chance to saddle his Aintree specialist on Saturday afternoon.

Eldorado Allen (Joe Tizzard) and Mac Tottie (Peter Bowen) are the other British-trained contenders.

The latest round of matches in the 2024 West Indies Championships kicked off with a flurry of runs on Wednesday, with impressive batting displays across multiple venues.

 At the Sir Frank Worrell Ground in St Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago Red Force dominated proceedings against Combined Colleges and Campuses, amassing a formidable 374-4 by stumps. Jason Mohammed led the charge with a magnificent 157, laced with 22 boundaries, before departing late in the day. Amir Jangoo provided solid support with an unbeaten 151, guiding Trinidad and Tobago towards a commanding position. Opener Kjorn Ottley's contribution of 47 earlier in the innings set the tone for the Red Force's batting onslaught.

 Initially, Amari Goodridge posed a threat for Combined Colleges and Campuses, claiming key wickets including Ottley and Vikash Mohan early on. However, Mohammed and Jangoo's partnership proved unyielding, frustrating the opposition bowlers and propelling their team to a dominant position at the close of play. Goodridge finished the day with commendable figures of 3-37.

 Over at the Queen’s Park Oval, Barbados Pride batters also shone brightly against Leeward Islands Hurricanes, posting a respectable 248-3 at stumps. Kraigg Brathwaite anchored the innings with an unbeaten 117 off 275 deliveries, while Zachary McCaskie notched his maiden List A century with an aggressive 101 from 148 balls. Their opening partnership laid a solid foundation until Justin Greaves broke through by dismissing McCaskie.

 Despite Rahkeem Cornwall's efforts for Leeward Islands, picking up crucial wickets including Raymon Reifer and Johnathan Drakes, Barbados remained in control by day's end. Cornwall finished with figures of 2-70, while Greaves contributed with 1-32.

 Meanwhile, at the Coolidge Cricket Ground in Antigua, the match between Windward Islands Volcanoes and West Indies Academy was impacted by rain. The Volcanoes were dismissed for 162, with Shamar Springer top-scoring with 31 runs. Joshua Bishop was the pick of the bowlers for West Indies Academy, claiming four wickets for 24 runs.

 In response, West Indies Academy struggled at 99-5 before rain interrupted play. Kadeem Alleyne was the top-scorer with 35 runs. Gilon Tyson made inroads with the ball for the Volcanoes, picking up 2 wickets for 30 runs.

In a bid to clear his name and restore his reputation, Jamaica's national squash champion, Julian Morrison, is challenging the provisional suspension imposed by the Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission (JADCO) after testing positive for trace amounts of Boldenone, a banned anabolic agent.

The suspension came following an out-of-competition test conducted on January 18th, 2024, where Morrison's results showed the presence of Boldenone in his system. However, Morrison and his representatives strongly assert that the substance entered his body inadvertently, likely through contamination.

Dr. Emir Crowne and Mr. Matthew Gayle, legal representatives for Morrison, are steadfast in their support of his innocence. They emphasize that Boldenone's presence was unintentional and stress Morrison's commitment to upholding the integrity of the sport.

Speaking on behalf of Morrison, Dr. Crowne stated, "As best as can be determined at this time, the banned substance unknowingly entered Mr. Morrison's system through contamination." Morrison remains determined to expedite the process of vindication and is actively engaging with authorities to clear his name.

Boldenone, often associated with bodybuilding due to its anabolic properties, is prohibited in competitive sports. However, Morrison's case highlights the complexities of anti-doping regulations and the challenges faced by athletes when dealing with inadvertent exposure to banned substances.

Despite the setback, Morrison remains resolute and hopeful for a positive resolution. His representatives have expressed confidence in the ongoing efforts to overturn the suspension and restore Morrison's eligibility to compete.

 

The fixtures for the 2024 Republic Bank Caribbean Premier League (CPL) have been confirmed with the tournament set to run from Thursday 29 August to Sunday 6 October. For the first time since 2019 the event will visit six host countries with matches set to take place in Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, Guyana, St Kitts & Nevis, Saint Lucia and Trinidad & Tobago.

There will be 34 matches in total with each of the six teams playing 10 group matches. The knockout stages will take place in Guyana with the home team, the Guyana Amazon Warriors, looking to defend the title they won in 2023.

(See full fixture schedule below)

The tournament gets underway with the newest CPL franchise, the Antigua & Barbuda Falcons, hosting their nearest rivals the St Kitts & Nevis Patriots. The tournament will have two legs running concurrently with all six teams hosting home matches.

Michael Hall, Tournament Operations Director for the Republic Bank CPL, said: “We are looking forward to getting underway in Antigua & Barbuda with matches back in the country for the first time in 10 years. It is also very pleasing to be back having home matches for all six teams with the Biggest Party in Sport set to have an even wider footprint in 2024.”

Men’s Caribbean Premier League 2024 Fixtures:

Thurs 29 August, 7pm: Antigua & Barbuda Falcons vs St Kitts & Nevis Patriots, Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, Antigua.

Fri 30 August, 7pm:  Antigua & Barbuda Falcons vs Guyana Amazon Warriors, Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, Antigua.

Sat 31 August, 7pm:  St Kitts & Nevis Patriots vs Trinbago Knight Riders, Warner Park Sporting Complex, St Kitts.

Sun 1 September, 10am:  Antigua & Barbuda Falcons vs Barbados Royals, Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, Antigua.

Sun 1 September, 7pm:  St Kitts & Nevis Patriots vs Saint Lucia Kings, Warner Park Sporting Complex, St Kitts.

Tues 3 September, 7pm:  Antigua & Barbuda Falcons vs Saint Lucia Kings, Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, Antigua.

Wed 4 September, 7pm: St Kitts & Nevis Patriots vs Guyana Amazon Warriors, Warner Park Sporting Complex, St Kitts.

Thurs 5 September, 7pm:  Antigua & Barbuda Falcons vs Trinbago Knight Riders, Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, Antigua.

Fri 6 September, 7pm:  St Kitts & Nevis Patriots v Barbados Royals, Warner Park Sporting Complex, St Kitts.

Sat 7 September,7pm: Saint Lucia Kings vs Guyana Amazon Warriors, Daren Sammy Cricket Ground, Saint Lucia.

 

Sun 8 September,10am: St Kitts & Nevis Patriots vs Antigua & Barbuda Falcons, Warner Park Sporting Complex, St Kitts.

Tues 10 September, 7pm: Saint Lucia Kings vs Trinbago Knight Riders, Daren Sammy Cricket Ground, Saint Lucia.

Wed 11 September, 7pm: Barbados Royals vs Antigua & Barbuda Falcons, Kensington Oval, Barbados.

Thurs 12 September, 7pm: Saint Lucia Kings vs St Kitts & Nevis Patriots vs Daren Sammy Cricket Ground, Saint Lucia.

Fri 13 September, 7pm: Barbados Royals vs Trinbago Knight Riders, Kensington Oval, Barbados.

Sat 14 September, 7pm: Barbados Royals vs Guyana Amazon Warriors, Kensington Oval, Barbados.

Sun 15 September, 7pm: Saint Lucia Kings vs Antigua & Barbuda Falcons, Daren Sammy Cricket Ground, Saint Lucia.

Tues 17 September, 7pm: Barbados Royals vs St Kitts & Nevis Patriots, Kensington Oval, Barbados.

Wed 18 September, 7pm: Trinbago Knight Riders vs Guyana Amazon Warriors, Queen’s Park Oval, Trinidad.

Thurs 19 September, 7pm: Trinbago Knight Riders vs Antigua & Barbuda Falcons, Queen’s Park Oval, Trinidad.

Friday 20 September, 7pm: Guyana Amazon Warriors vs St Kitts & Nevis Patriots, Guyana National Stadium, Providence.

Sat 21 September, 10am: Saint Lucia Kings vs Barbados Royals, Guyana National Stadium, Providence.

Sat 21 September, 7pm: Guyana Amazon Warriors vs Antigua & Barbuda Falcons, Guyana National Stadium, Providence.

Sun 22 September, 10am: Barbados Royals vs Saint Lucia Kings, Guyana National Stadium, Providence.

Sun 22 September, 7pm: Trinbago Knight Riders vs St Kitt & Nevis Patriots, Brian Lara Cricket Academy, Trinidad.

Tues 24 September, 10am: Trinbago Knight Riders vs Saint Lucia Kings, Brian Lara Cricket Academy, Trinidad.

Wed 25 September, 7pm: Guyana Amazon Warriors vs Barbados Royals, Guyana National Stadium, Providence.

Fri 27 September, 7pm: Trinbago Knight Riders vs Barbados Royals, Brian Lara Cricket Academy, Trinidad.

Sat 28 September, 10am: Guyana Amazon Warriors vs Saint Lucia Kings, Guyana National Stadium, Providence.

 

Sun 29 September, 7pm: Guyana Amazon Warriors vs Trinbago Knight Riders, Guyana National Stadium, Providence.

 Tues 1 October, 7pm: Eliminator – 3rd place vs 4th place, Guyana National Stadium, Providence.

Wed 2 October, 7pm: Qualifier 1 – 1st place vs 2nd place, Guyana National Stadium, Providence.

Fri 4 October 7pm: Qualifier 2 – Winner of Eliminator  vs Loser Qualifier 1, Guyana National Stadium, Providence.

Sun 6 October, 7pm: Final – Winner Qualifier 1 vs Winner Qualifier 2, Guyana National Stadium, Providence.

 

 

The Republic Bank Caribbean Premier League and Massy Women’s Caribbean Premier League created a total economic impact of US$55,258,616 for Trinidad & Tobago during the 2023 tournament. This is a 15 per cent increase from the total generated in 2022.

 There were six men’s matches and four Women’s matches in Trinidad between 5 and 10 September with games taking place at the Queen’s Park Oval and the Brian Lara Cricket Academy, including the WCPL final.

 The total event impact is calculated by world renowned research organization, YouGov Sport. The figure is based on organizer spend, visitor spend and media value for Trinidad & Tobago.

The tournament filled 13,961 hotel room nights in Trinidad, made up by CPL’s significant cohort which included players, coaches, administrators, TV and media crews, team owner groups, league and franchise event management teams, alongside overseas visitors who arrived to watch the games. A large part of the total economic impact figure stems from the money spent by these overseas visitors who spend time in Trinidad & Tobago during the event.

Trinidad & Tobago also benefited from the tournament being broadcast around the world with CPL’s audience reaching 853.5million total viewers in 2023. As always, the tournament worked closely with the local tourism authorities to create world class content which highlighted the unique sports tourism opportunities that Trinidad & Tobago had to offer. These exclusive features and vignettes were shown during the CPL matches, further promoting the tourism message.

Pete Russell, Republic Bank CPL’s CEO, said: “History was created in Trinidad & Tobago in 2023 when the Barbados Royals won an expanded WCPL in front of a sell-out crowd at the Brian Lara Cricket Academy, and it was fantastic to once again be somewhere that is the beating heart of CPL cricket. ”

Also weighing in in on the League’s impact was Minister of Sport and Community Development, the Honourable Shamfa Cudjoe-Lewis, who said: “Once again, the Caribbean Premier League had demonstrated its remarkable impact on generating economic activity in Trinidad and Tobago. CPL’s statistics underscore the league’s pivotal role in advancing and developing our nation’s sport tourism portfolio. The Government of Trinidad and Tobago, through the Ministry of Sport and Community Development and the Sports Company of Trinidad and Tobago (SporTT), looks forward to the return of the CPL in 2024, as we remain committed to harnessing the power of sport to drive economic growth and fostering community development across the nation.”

Grey Dawning kicks off what could prove to be a crucial three days at Aintree for title-chasing Dan Skelton in the the Close Brothers Manifesto Novices’ Chase on Thursday.

Following a fantastic four-timer at last month’s Cheltenham Festival, the Alcester handler heads former mentor Paul Nicholls by around £30,000 in the race to be crowned leading trainer, while perennial Irish champion Willie Mullins cannot be discounted despite being just over £685,000 further adrift.

Skelton is well aware the next three days on Merseyside are likely to have a major bearing on where the championship ultimately ends up, but he is doing his best to keep his feet on the ground.

“There’s a lot of water to go under that bridge, but having good chances at this meeting with the prize-money on offer there is obviously very important,” he said.

Grey Dawning was one of Skelton’s fab four at Cheltenham, reversing previous form with the Nicholls-trained Ginny’s Destiny to secure Grade One honours in the Turners Novices’ Chase.

The pair will renew rivalry in the opening race of the Randox Grand National Festival, with Skelton hopeful Grey Dawning’s Cheltenham exploits have not left their mark.

He added: “I’m looking forward to it a lot, obviously. He showed at Cheltenham two-and-a-half (miles) in this ground is no issue at all. I wanted to go three miles with him, but when the ground was like this, it was a pretty easy decision to make.

“He’s in good form at home. I’ve no reason to think that he’s not in the same form as he was at Cheltenham, but historically horses have tried to do the two and some have and some haven’t, I just hope he’s in the have category! I have no reason to think he’s not, I’m very happy with him.”

Nicholls is similarly positive about Ginny’s Destiny’s wellbeing and is looking forward to the rematch with Grey Dawning in a race worth £120,000 in total.

“He’s made giant strides since joining us this season, winning three times at Cheltenham before another cracking run when second to Grey Dawning at the Festival,” Nicholls told Betfair.

“He will love the ground at Aintree and is in good shape.

“As with all of ours who ran at Cheltenham, no one can tell you for sure how they have come out of their races but they have had a nice, easy fortnight before we started tuning them up again. They did their last piece of work on Saturday and head to Aintree fresh and well.”

Mullins also has a significant contender in the form of Il Etait Temps, who steps up in trip after placing third behind stablemate Gaelic Warrior in the Arkle at Cheltenham.

Jamie Snowden’s Turners Novices’ Chase sixth Colonel Harry and Tom Lacey’s Blow Your Wad, the only horse in the field not to run at the Festival, are the other hopefuls.

Dual Coral Cup winner Langer Dan takes a step into the unknown as he tackles Grade One company for the first time in the William Hill Aintree Hurdle.

The eight-year-old had struggled for form during the winter but trainer Dan Skelton reported the gelding had suffered from stomach ulcers over that period.

He was right back to his very best at Cheltenham, however, winning by three and a half lengths to become the first dual winner of the ultra-competitive handicap and he now faces top-level scorers Bob Olinger and Impaire Et Passe in a field of eight.

“He’s up in class, running in a Grade One for the first time I think, which is very exciting,” said Skelton.

“I’ve got a lot of respect for first two in the betting (Bob Olinger and Impaire Et Passe) and they’re not going to be easy horses to beat, but our horse is in great form and put up a career-best in the Coral Cup last time.

“I think think he’s a player anyway, but whether he can beat the two fancied ones or not we’ll see.”

Henry de Bromhead’s Bob Olinger missed the Cheltenham Festival having finished second in the Irish Champion Hurdle as this has been his main target all season, over his ideal trip of two and a half miles.

“I’m really looking forward to riding Bob Olinger in the Aintree Hurdle,” Rachael Blackmore told Betfair.

“He was really good in the Relkeel Hurdle at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day. It was great to feel the old Bob Olinger spark again this season. He really felt back to himself. When you have ridden a horse who has the ability that he has, it’s great when you get that feeling from him again.

“He ran very well then in the Irish Champion Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown, he did well to keep on to finish second to the Champion Hurdler State Man.

“He’s in great form at home, and hopefully he can continue running like he has been running all season. We couldn’t be happier with him, we’re really looking forward to him.”

Nicky Henderson’s Luccia ran a massive career-best to finish third in the Champion Hurdle when many of her stablemates were under a cloud, with her trainer eager to try a longer trip.

“The line of thought with stepping her up in trip is that we haven’t really got anywhere else to go other than Punchestown for the two-mile mares’ hurdle where you’d expect Lossiemouth to turn up,” Henderson told Unibet.

“We were third in the Champion Hurdle so it would be interesting to find out where we compare with Lossiemouth to find out whether Lossiemouth would have been fourth or first in the Champion Hurdle.

“State Man didn’t exactly get a million miles away from Luccia which is probably the bit that chews us as we know where Luccia would sit with Constitution Hill and five lengths wouldn’t bring them together.

“I thought Lossiemouth was brilliant the twice we’ve seen her this season, so not only are we not keen on taking her on, I’ve been dying to step Luccia up in trip as this is an opportunity to see if she stays as it will make next year much easier.”

Beacon Edge, Mahons Glory, Nemean Lion and Marie’s Rock complete the field.

Matty Longstaff is enjoying a fresh start with Toronto FC having gone from the highest of highs with boyhood club Newcastle to dealing with injuries, frustration and the business side of the beautiful game.

If you were writing a script for a young Geordie, then scoring the winner against Manchester United on your Premier League debut at a packed St James’ Park would be the dream.

Better still, teenager Longstaff did that playing alongside his older brother and appeared set to follow Sean in establishing himself as a Newcastle regular.

The midfielder made 15 appearances during the 2019-20 campaign and scored at Old Trafford, but things ultimately did not go to plan for a midfielder starting anew in Major League Soccer with Toronto.

“You probably don’t realise how special it is until down the line, you realise how difficult it was to actually go and do that,” Longstaff told the PA news agency.

“When I came through, I didn’t have any lows. Broke through, scored on my debut against Man United, played that season, felt like I’d done well, obviously scored at Old Trafford.

“Everything just kind of seemed to roll on. You don’t really think about anything – you just play, play, play.

“Then certain things come up and suddenly you’d start to stall. It gets a bit tougher and then you realise that it’s a business and it’s not what you think it is. As bad as it sounds, it’s a business at the end of the day.

“Obviously I was there and then you’re gone and you have to accept it because ultimately, players are going to come and go.

“When I’m 19 breaking through, you just think ‘I’ll play here and this will be me for my career’ but then in about six or seven months, you soon realise that it’s completely different and you never know what’s going to happen.”

Longstaff’s breakthrough attracted interest from Germany, the Netherlands and Italy, including a lucrative offer from Udinese, but he was always “praying” for a new deal where his “heart lay”.

The homegrown midfielder eventually signed a new contract with the Magpies but only made five more appearances for them, spending time on loan at Aberdeen, Mansfield and Colchester.

The latter spell was ended by an anterior cruciate ligament injury on Boxing Day 2022, leading to a gruelling rehabilitation programme and uncertainty after his Newcastle deal ended last summer.

“I did every bit of the rehab there,” said Longstaff, who is full of praise for his former club. “I was really lucky.

“When I ran out of contract, I got a phone call off (sporting director) Dan Ashworth in the off-season when I’d ran out.

“Let’s be honest, as a player you never know what can happen with clubs and stuff, but they were absolutely spot on with me.

“Dan just rang me and said ‘look, Matty, we’re going to keep you here for the full rehab process, it doesn’t matter how long it takes’.

“Dan and the gaffer (Eddie Howe) at Newcastle were unbelievable with us.”

Longstaff says it “makes such a big difference to you when you know people actually care”, with that help even extending to aiding his move to Canada.

 

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The 24-year-old met Ashworth and Toronto boss John Herdman – who hails from nearby Consett – at Newcastle’s training ground during rehab, leading to a trial and signing a two-year deal.

Longstaff so far loves life in Toronto – his brother Sean’s “favourite place” – and is full of praise for an “unbelievable” club, who he made his debut for off the bench against Charlotte a month ago.

“I hadn’t played a competitive game in 15 months, so you miss that feeling,” he said. “The way the fans went on, it was unbelievable.

“Something I’ll remember and hopefully the longer I’m here, I can give them a few more opportunities to cheer.”

Longstaff has since made four starts for TFC and is excited to be starting this new chapter at a time when MLS is beginning its own with the 2026 World Cup looming large.

“It’s showing what a good league it is now,” Longstaff said. “I’m looking forward to playing more.

“When you look at the players that are coming here and what’s happening round here, it was a bit of a no-brainer.”

Late-night commuters at an Australian train station had a surprise travel companion last Friday as a loose horse ended up on the platform.

An unknown person broke into the premises of trainer Annabel Neasham, who is based at Warwick Farm in Sydney, unlocking some of the stable doors which allowed the horse to escape.

The unnamed runner ended up on the platform at Warwick Farm train station, with New South Wales Premier Chris Minns sharing a video of the incident on Wednesday, which shows the horse walking up and down as a train arrives while passengers jumped out of the way.

The horse was eventually caught by a staff member and transported back home.

In a post on X, Minns said: “Wet tracker.

“Didn’t realise I needed to say but – horses aren’t allowed on our trains, sorry folks.

“I can confirm the horse has returned home, safe and sound.”

Neasham, who was born in Britain and is best known for her handling of ex-Sir Michael Stoute runner Zaaki, has been contacted Racing NSW stewards regarding the incident.

A statement from the authority said: “Ms Neasham explained that on the evening of Friday, April 5 an unknown person gained access to one of her stable barns in the Warwick Farm stabling precinct.

“It was ascertained that the unknown person released three racehorses and a stable pony with one of the stated racehorses leaving the vicinity of her stable complex.

“Ms Neasham added that as soon as she became aware that there was a loose horse from her stable complex, she immediately contacted local police who attended soon after and the horse was able to be recaptured without sustaining any injury or damaging any property.

“Further, Ms Neasham explained that the stable barn which was accessed accommodates horses which are in the early stages of their respective preparations and therefore did not contain any horses which were entered for or scheduled to race.

“Ms Neasham will be formally interviewed by the stewards at a time to be fixed regarding the incident.”

Cheltenham Festival runner-up Kargese follows a familiar route for Willie Mullins in the Boodles Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle at Aintree on Thursday.

The Closutton handler has claimed this Grade One contest twice in the last seven years, with both the sensational 2016 victor Apple’s Jade and last year’s heroine Zenta picking up minor honours in the Triumph Hurdle prior to striking gold on Merseyside.

His latest challenger is a pea out of the same pod having found only stablemate Majborough too strong at Prestbury Park last month – and while Nicky Henderson’s unbeaten Triumph absentee Sir Gino is a major threat, connections of Kargese are quietly confident about her chances.

“If she’s come out of Cheltenham well, which the team at Closutton seem to think she has, she must have every chance,” said Peter Molony, racing manger for owner Kenny Alexander.

“She just needs to learn to settle a little bit. I would upgrade her run big time in the Triumph as she basically fought for her head the whole way round and never really settled. Before the last she looked like she was galloping all over the winner and then she just got tired.

“I know the winner is very good, but I think she definitely would have got closer to him if she had settled better, so if she can settle on Thursday we’d be very hopeful.

“She’s a very nice mare who owes us nothing as she’s had a great year already, but we rate her pretty highly so hopefully she can settle and we’ll have a good run.”

Sir Gino looked every inch a top-class prospect after winning his first two starts for Nicky Henderson, particularly when dominating his rivals in a Triumph Hurdle trial at Cheltenham in late January.

The French import disappointingly missed the Triumph Hurdle itself during what was a difficult week for his trainer, but that does at least mean he will be fresh for his latest assignment.

“It was sad he couldn’t run at Cheltenham because, to be fair, there was nothing wrong with him but by the time we got to the Friday I’d completely lost my bottle altogether,” Henderson told Unibet.

“I didn’t dare run him. I think he’s a very good horse and we’re going to find out sooner or later. He looked very good on Trials day at Cheltenham and his work recently has been up to that standard.

“He’s been round Auteuil so the ground shouldn’t worry him.”

Similar comments apply to the Paul Nicholls-trained Kalif Du Berlais, who is two from two since arriving in Britain and has been saved for Aintree since landing the Adonis at Kempton in February.

“He’s a horse with a big future and maintained his unbeaten record with a determined success in the Adonis Hurdle at Kempton under a 5lb penalty,” Nicholls told Betfair.

“It was always the plan to miss the Triumph Hurdle and wait for this race at Aintree. We’ve deliberately given him time and although this is a step up in class for him, he seems be improving physically and I think he is in better shape than he was before his last run.”

Joseph O’Brien saddles both Triumph Hurdle fourth Nurburgring and his stablemate Intellotto, who was last seen landing a small-field conditions event at Limerick.

Syd Hosie’s rank outsider and hurdling debutant Dirty Den, down the field in the Champion Bumper last month, completes the field.

Galileo Dame looks to have a bright future based on the way she quickened up to win the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Fillies Maiden at Leopardstown.

The last three winners have all gone on to be Group One performers in Tarnawa, Above The Curve and last season subsequent Irish Oaks winner Savethelastdance was successful in it.

Aidan O’Brien ran two with Ryan Moore preferring the claims of Rubies Are Red, a full-sister to multiple Group One winner Found and it was she and stablemate Flight Of Fancy who went for him just off the bend.

Dylan Browne McMonagle was just biding his time on the Joseph O’Brien-trained winner, though, and as soon as she was in the clear despite the ground being heavy she sprinted away to win by three and a half lengths at 13-8.

“She had a good run in soft ground last year and we thought that 10 furlongs would suit her well,” said Joseph O’Brien.

“I was very pleased and looking at that you’d have to say she’s a smart filly.

“I suppose the obvious thing now is to go into an Oaks trial of some sort. That’s probably where she’ll go.

“She’s owned by a great group of lads, the Annus Mirabilis Syndicate, Sean O’Driscoll and Brian McKieran. It’s exciting for them to have a real smart filly.”

James Reveley will get the leg-up on a horse he helped to source as he partners Roi Mage in the Randox Grand National on Saturday.

The 12-year-old is trained in Ireland by Patrick Griffin and his son and assistant James – a duo Reveley is well acquainted with, having ridden numerous winners for them throughout his career.

A notable victory shared between them was with Maggio in the Listed Betfred Handicap Chase in 2016, the race before the Grand National in which Rule The World triumphed for Mouse Morris and David Mullins.

On that occasion, Reveley wore the blue and yellow silks previously made famous by Auroras Encore when he won the Aintree showpiece in 2013 for Sue Smith and Ryan Mania, colours belonging to a group of owners that clearly love to target the big race.

They did so last year with Roi Mage, who was partnered by another France-based jockey in Felix de Giles and finished an admirable seventh after his first encounter with the unique National obstacles at Aintree.

After a summer break, he joined forces with Reveley to target the Listed Grand Steeple-Chase-Cross-Country de Compiegne, a race he won by three lengths on heavy ground over three miles and three furlongs.

Most recently, he was seen in the Bluegrass Stamm 30 Chase at Down Royal, finishing second behind fellow National challenger Adamantly Chosen.

That run has prepared him nicely for his Liverpool bid and Reveley is looking forward to reuniting with him on going that is guaranteed to be testing.

“He’s a horse I’ve ridden a few times and I know quite well, I found him for the Griffins in France,” he said.

“I’d ridden him in France and I thought he’d be a good National type, they’ve had a bit of fun with him, they’ve had a couple of wins and a good run in the National last year. Let’s hope he can put in another one, as they love to have a National horse.

“I actually rode a winner for them at Aintree in the race before the National a long time ago, on Maggio in the same colours, so that’s where the connection comes from.

“They asked me if there were any horses in France that could potentially be National types and I thought of this horse, he’s turned out to be quite good for them.

“I think things have gone a bit better for him this year, his last run was good, very solid, and I liked how he stayed on to the line.

“They campaign him quietly, they don’t over-race him and that’s good for an older horse. He enjoys his life with the Griffins in Ireland and I’m quietly confident.”

Reveley has already enjoyed a notable success on British turf this year when landing the Grade One Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day aboard Il Est Francais.

Noel George and Amanda Zetterholm’s gelding then contested the Prix Murat at Auteuil last Saturday but something appeared to be amiss as he was all but pulled up.

“I haven’t heard the verdict yet but my immediate conclusion was that he didn’t enjoy being ridden like that,” the jockey said of the disappointment.

“He’s a dominant horse who likes to dominate, to use his stride and his jumping – and we didn’t let him do that.

“I think that could be one of the reasons why he ran so badly.”

Emmet Mullins’ Corbetts Cross is bidding for the Cheltenham-Aintree double as he prepares to contest the William Hill Bowl Chase on the opening day of the Grand National meeting.

The chestnut was a wide-margin winner at the Cheltenham Festival, taking the Maureen Mullins National Hunt Challenge Cup by 17 lengths under Derek O’Connor.

That run proved his stamina and his ability in heavy ground, and now his class will be tested as he steps down in trip from three miles and six furlongs to three miles and a furlong at Aintree.

Frank Berry, racing manager to owner JP McManus, said: “He’s probably in at the deep end, but he’s in good form, came out of Cheltenham very well and Emmet was keen enough to have a crack at it.

“The other horse is in the three-mile novice, Inothewayurthinkin, so we said we’d give Corbetts Cross a crack at this and see how we get on.

“He’s obviously coming back from Cheltenham where he had a hard enough race and he is in at the deep end, but as long as he runs well and gets round we’ll be happy.”

Nicky Henderson’s Shishkin is the reigning champion in the race but has met with mixed fortunes this year, refusing to race in the  1965 Chase at Ascot and then falling with the race at his mercy in the King George VI Chase.

He bounced back to stroll to victory in the Denman Chase but his participation in the Gold Cup was prevented by an unsatisfactory scope ahead of the race during a difficult time for the Seven Barrows stable.

“Nico rode him on Saturday and said he felt fantastic, we’re ready to rock and roll I hope,” Henderson told Unibet.

“We had to miss the Gold Cup but there was nothing else you could do, it just hasn’t been his year.

“The King George, you could argue whether he would or he wouldn’t have won – I’ve always felt that he would have won.

“Let’s hope he can put it all to rights, he certainly deserves it.”

Gordon Elliott will saddle the Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up Gerri Colombe in the race after he missed out by three and a half lengths when last seen in the Cotswolds in March.

The gelding has course and distance form as he was the winner of the Mildmay Novices’ Chase at the meeting last year with an easy seven-and-a-half-length success.

“I’m really happy with Gerri Colombe, he worked great on Monday morning,” the trainer told At The Races.

“We were a bit disappointed with him after the Savills Chase, so we were delighted to see him come back to himself when running so well in the Gold Cup at the Cheltenham Festival.

“He seems to be improving all the time and can hopefully step up again. He handles soft ground very well, but he travelled great on nicer ground at Aintree last year, so I don’t think he’s one dimensional that way.”

Paul Nicholls’ Bravemansgame also ran in the Cheltenham Gold Cup but did not run up to his mark when tailed off in fifth.

Nicholls felt the conditions did not suit him and will also experiment with cheekpieces as the bay looks to return to form in Liverpool.

“Things haven’t quite gone to plan for Bravemansgame this season,” he said to Betfair.

“He hated the testing conditions at Cheltenham and it was clear from an early stage in the Gold Cup that he wasn’t handling them.

“The flat track at Aintree will suit him better and the ground shouldn’t be as deep as at Cheltenham.

“We are putting cheekpieces on Bravemansgame to help sharpen him up. It’s something we almost tried last time. His regular rider Scott Marshall was very pleased with the way he worked on Saturday morning.”

Mouse Morris’ Gentlemansgame is another contender last seen in the Gold Cup, where he was pulled up two from home following a more fruitful start to the season that saw him finish second in the PWC Champion Chase and win the Charlie Hall.

Lucinda Russell’s Ahoy Senor was second behind Shishkin in the race last term and lines up in a bid to go one better after coming home in the middle of the pack in the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham when last seen.

Olly Murphy’s Thunder Rock completes the field, winner of the Listed bet365 Premier Chase at Kelso in early March.

Valvano is set for a step up in distance following his encouraging return behind 2000 Guineas hopeful Notable Speech at Kempton.

An impressive winner of a heavy ground maiden at Nottingham last October, the Ralph Beckett-trained colt was tasked with taking on Godolphin’s highly-regarded and unbeaten track-and-trip specialist for his return in a conditions race won by some top operators over the years.

The son of Night Of Thunder lost little in defeat when headed late on by the speedy winner – who was cut across the boards for the 2000 Guineas in the aftermath – and having blown away the cobwebs and confirmed the promise of his excellent debut, connections can now look forward to moving up in distance and a possible run in a Classic trial next.

“We knew we were going to use Saturday as a stepping stone and we know that he is going to want 10 furlongs plus and probably with a bit of juice in the ground, so for Valvano to go a mile round Kempton and take on a horse who has every chance of taking his chance in the Guineas, it was always going to be a tough ask,” said Alex Elliott, adviser to owners Valmont.

“It will have done him good to get the freshness out of him and it was an improvement on his debut and will have taught him something. We look forward to stepping him up in trip now and we will probably look at a trial, I suppose.

“The winner looks a cut above in terms of going a mile and you would like to think if we could make the same improvement as we did from a maiden going into a conditions race when going up in trip in preferred conditions, we could have a really smart horse hopefully.”

With the feeling Valvano has a preference for cut in the ground, weather conditions could dictate where he steps up in trip and although he holds an entry for the Betfred Derby, it could be the French equivalent at Chantilly that becomes a longer-term objective.

Elliott continued: “Ralph thinks from his pedigree he is going to want a little bit of rain and I think he is going to be ground dependent.

“On the bottom side of his pedigree there is a lot of stamina, being out of a Duke Of Marmalade mare. But Night Of Thunder doesn’t really get them to stay that far. Ten furlongs could be his optimum for now but I think Ralph is pretty confident the horse could stay even further.

“He’s in the Dante, but wherever the rain is, whether that is York or Chester or something like that, if that went to plan, we could look at going to France for the French Derby.

“We’ll see and it’s a long way away and for now it is nice to see him back and make the progression. Hopefully he can take another step forward next time.”

Fellow Valmont-owned three-year-old Feigning Madness could also put his Classic hopes to the test when he makes his return in trial action at either Epsom or Lingfield.

The son of Ulysses somewhat surprised his team when going unbeaten in two starts as a two-year-old and as well as being a candidate for the Derby, the colt is also seen as a possible St Leger prospect for later in the campaign.

“He ran above expectation last year, he ran at Newbury first time and we thought he would be green, which he was, but we didn’t really expect him to do what he did,” continued Elliott.

“To then carry a penalty the way he did at Newmarket when the horse was on his head the whole way, you have to think the horse is going to stay super well.

“He’s going to come back in a trial and it will either be the Blue Riband Trial at Epsom or Lingfield. He has had two runs now and has learnt a lot. He is crying out for a step up in trip and we’re going to try to pick our easiest way to Epsom – if we can run well in a trial, then why not take a shot.

“He’s a well-balanced horse and his work has been good this year, which is pleasing everybody, and I think the further he goes, the better, so you could hopefully see him in something at Doncaster at the end of the season.”

Feigning Madness claimed the scalp of Ed Walker’s Harper’s Ferry on his second start and it was interesting to see another of the Valmont string, Moon Over Miami, also finish ahead of that rival when making a taking debut at Doncaster at the beginning of the Flat turf season.

As he is a gelding, Classic events are off the cards, but connections are keen to see the Kimpton Downs inmate continue his on-track education with a view to lining up at Royal Ascot in the summer.

“The time boys went crazy over Moon Over Miami but with him being a gelding, he can’t take in one of the trials so we will probably go for another novice with a penalty,” added Elliott.

“I think Ralph has his eye on something Greenham weekend – I think there is a 10 furlong novice there – and I guess we will be trying to get three runs into him before Royal Ascot.

“We’re just a little hamstrung with him being a gelding as to what we do next, but he’s exciting.”

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