AP McCoy was inducted into the Aintree hall of fame yesterday on day one of the Crabbie’s Grand National meeting.
Inductees also included the 20-times champion jockey’s early mentor Toby Balding, who died in September last year.
He saddled Highland Wedding and Little Polveir to Aintree glory in 1969 and 1989.
“I remember that I was playing a rugby game during Highland Wedding’s race in 1969 – I kept kicking the ball out of touch so that I could listen to the commentary!” said Balding’s brother Ian.
Meanwhile, Sue Smith’s 2013 hero Auroras Encore is due to lead tomorrow’s parade of past winners.
Neil Mulholland has high hopes for recent Wetherby winner Carole’s Destrier in today’s Grade One Betfred Mildmay Novices’ Chase.
The trainer, who saddles The Druids Nephew in the National, said: “We decided to miss Cheltenham with him and went to Wetherby with a view to this race.
“Wetherby was effectively a racecourse gallop and it did exactly what we wanted it to do. He’s going there in great order and I’ve no worries about the ground. I always felt Aintree would be the place for him this year as he’s more of an Aintree horse, in my eyes. We’ve also been able to book AP (McCoy), which is another massive bonus. I think he’s got a big chance.”
Gary Moore hopes the fact Sire De Grugy has had no interruptions between Cheltenham and Aintree can help his stable star get back to winning ways in the Betfred Melling Chase today.
One of the most popular horses in training, Sire De Grugy finished fourth in defence of his Queen Mother Champion Chase crown last month.
However, his season had been delayed due to an early setback, and after unseating on his reappearance, Moore sent him to Chepstow less than two weeks before Cheltenham.
“He’s as good as he’s been all year – he’s at the top of his game at the moment,” said Moore. “I just hope we get good to soft ground. The difference is he’s had an uninterrupted preparation since Cheltenham. I’ve had a clear run so far. In his demeanour he’s in a good place with himself.”
Jamie Moore, the West Sussex handler’s son and Sire De Grugy’s regular rider, suffered a broken leg last week so younger brother, Joshua, steps in.
“I’ve ridden him in work and I’ve schooled him,” said Joshua Moore. “It’s a shame Jamie isn’t there, but I do know the horse quite a bit anyway. I rode him work last week and he went well. The circumstances aren’t what I’d like. It was Jamie’s bad luck, but hopefully it will be a good opportunity for me. He’s a previous Champion Chase winner and it’s a Grade One at Aintree.”
Splash Of Ginge takes a step towards a future tilt at the Grand National when contesting the Crabbie’s Topham Chase at Aintree today.
It will be the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained seven-year-old’s first attempt over the Liverpool birch in the extended two-mile-five-furlong event, but connections believes he will have no problem taking to the famous fences.
Owner John Neild said: “Being a local lad, this race is another stepping stone towards our dream of running in the Grand National.
“Although he is near the top of the weights, I think this is an ideal opportunity for him. Ryan Hatch being able to claim 5lb off his back will help too.”