Win a bottle of wine
With jump racing's richest week looming and the most powerful stables in Britain and Ireland poised to do battle for more than £6 million in purses, there was a timely reminder yesterday that success is relative.
Amid the odds and wagers sit other numbers: 43 horses have died there in the past six years
Cheltenham Gold Cup winner has taken up dressage
However conscientiously they strive to improve the odds in terms of safety at Aintree – a greater imperative than ever, after trauma and tragedy in each of the past two years – the one thing they will never provide is a level playing field. Even so, some felt that the dice had been unfairly loaded in favour of one horse in particular when the weights for the John Smith's Grand National were published.
Racehorses will never give you an answer when they can come up with a new question instead.
Leading duo shine in testing conditions while Commander returns near his imperious best
Nicholls' veteran lands Lexus as Flemenstar's stamina drains after promising challenge
The first Classics of the Flat season are imminent, but it is not just the jump racing weather that is proving hard to shake off. A sport still smarting from its ghastly experience at Aintree last month must defer judgement on alterations that might yet be made, but for now the British Horseracing Authority has decided that neither of the fatalities that tarnished the John Smith's Grand National could have been anticipated. A review of veterinary and television evidence yesterday concluded that the loss of both Synchronised and According To Pete was attributable to "factors one could neither have foreseen nor prevented".
Though serving its traditional role as both the final fling of the jumps season and a test of the new order established at Cheltenham last month, the Punchestown Festival must this week absorb one or two challenging incongruities.
As settles the emotional dust raised by Saturday's dramatic and traumatic Grand National, and begins a reasoned debate over the direction the historic sporting contest must take – starting with a meeting next week between the British Horseracing Authority's chief executive, Paul Bittar, and animal welfare groups – two men intimately involved with one of the fatalities have spoken in the defence of both the race and the broader concept of man's use of animals.
Win, lose or draw, Albertas Run deserves top billing on the second day of the Aintree meeting. Having typically gone down with all guns blazing in his quest for a fourth Cheltenham Festival success last month, he might be pardoned for running a little flat in the John Smith's Melling Chase – but the fact is that he has managed first and second in the past two runnings, despite having a week less to soak up similarly hard races.
Kauto Star will bid for a third Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup victory after delighting connections in an “awesome” schooling session at his Ditcheat base.
If it was uncharacteristic of Paul Nicholls not to disclose Kauto Star's schooling fall until six days later, he has certainly been living up to his reputation since. The champion trainer has been releasing scrupulously detailed daily bulletins on the horse's recuperation, and yesterday went one step further by announcing his intention to gallop the horse in public on Friday.
Not for the first time, new guidelines governing use of the whip were rushed through yesterday with one of British racing's showcase occasions specifically in mind. It would be disappointing, however, if regulating in haste on this occasion caused quite so much repenting at leisure.