“Look! It’s moving. It’s alive. It’s alive… It’s alive, it’s moving, it’s alive, it’s alive, it’s alive, it’s alive, IT’S ALIVE!”
Henry Frankenstein’s words about his famous monster could have been used in the commentary for every performance of Always Waining at Aintree, the Peter Bowen-trained tyke producing improved efforts nearly every time he ran at a venue which was the scene of three wins in the Topham (his only victories during his final 30 starts).
Though the famous Grand National fences are not as formidable as they once were, they still provide a more daunting examination than that trip to the doctors during your college days after it hurt when you peed.
But who will come alive at Aintree this week?
The Becher, run in December, is a race that Highland Lodge has targeted in the past. He won it in 2015 and went agonisingly close when beaten a short-head by a rallying Vieux Lion Rouge in the same race last season. Highland Lodge’s run in the Grand National the following April suggested that dropping in trip for the Topham is a wise move and he should run well from the foot of the weights.
Another contender is Theatre Territory, who hasn’t been to Aintree before, but his owner and jockey certainly have. Robert Waley-Cohen and son Sam combined to win this race in 2015 with Rajdhani Express, having previously won the 2014 Becher with Oscar Time.
Keep an eye on Ultragold, too, winner of this race last year and second in the Grand Sefton, another race over the National fences in December. He has been badly out of form on his last two starts, but a Lazarus impression awaits now returned to these fences with his yard in better form now.
Ryanair Stayers Hurdle, 16.20, Saturday
Though he runs over hurdles on the Mildmay course – rather than over the National fences – there is reason to believe that a return to Aintree will also suit The Worlds End. He was behind several of his Liverpool Hurdle rivals when seventh in the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, but won the Sefton Novices’ Hurdle at this meeting 12 months ago.
His trainer Tom George has suggested that better going would suit, however, The Worlds End has won three times on soft ground and a better end result is expected here compared to Prestbury Park – he looks a big danger to favourite Sam Spinner..
Blaklion is a contender, having taken very well to the challenge when fourth in last year’s Grand National, though he’s since won the Becher over the same fences and is hardly woefully out of form, for all that he disappointed at Haydock when last seen. After a wind op, he looks sure to run well.
However, Vieux Lion Rouge is expected to bounce back to form with a vengeance.
He’s been seventh and sixth in the last two Nationals, winning the Becher himself in between, and is expected to perform much better than his three efforts this season – and his odds of 28/1 – would suggest.
Like the ladies of Liverpool, he’ll have been trained to the minute for this meeting.
* All odds correct at time of posting.