Grand National Festival 2024 | Day One: A new Dawning

Punchestown Festival

The Aintree Grand National meeting is upon us with 11 Grade 1 races across three action-packed days.

Thanks to persistent downpours in Liverpool, heavy ground is almost a certainty for day one, so let this enter your calculations when betting tomorrow.

So, with this in mind, here are my best day one fancies.


1:45 Aintree – Grey Dawning @ 1/1 with William Hill – 2pt Win

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Opening up the selections for the day is Grey Dawning in the first race looking to back up from his success at Cheltenham last month.

The seven-year-old grey was gallant in the Grade 1 Turners Novices Chase as both he and Ginny’s Destiny pulled well-clear of Djelo in third, and his jumping was much improved from his previous outings this season.

His form has worked out all season as Crebilly, a horse he beat at the Cheltenham December meeting, finished second in the Plate, Trelawne, a horse he beat in the same race, placed in a Grade 2 after, and Apple Away has partially franked the form of his Grade 2 Hampton Novices’ Chase success.

Dan Skelton thinks the world of this horse, so let’s hope he delivers in conditions that should suit well.


2:55 Aintree – Gerri Colombe @ 7/4 with William Hill – 1pt Win

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The Grade 1 Aintree Bowl has many interesting angles pre-race. Is the Nicky Henderson stable in form? Can Corbetts Cross mix it at this level? Will Bravemansgame bounce back with first-time cheekpieces?

For me, Gerri Colombe has drifted to 7/4, making his price too good to leave based on his performance when second to Galopin Des Champs in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

That performance in the Gold Cup was a huge effort, so the one element of doubt is if he can back up at Aintree. However, his ability to put in a big performance in last year’s Grade 1 Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase before a facile success in the Grade 1 Mildmay Novices’ Chase offers hope that he will be fine.

If Sir Gino obliges in the Grade 1 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle earlier on the card, my level of worry for Shishkin would grow as we all know what he can do on a going day.

However, he is my only major worry at the prices, so I’m happy to stick with Gerri Colombe.


4:05 Aintree – Annamix @ 11/2 with William Hill – 1pt EW

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Any time a big hunter chase comes under my microscope, classy older horses are where I focus my attention, which is the reason why Annamix has caught my attention.

The 11-year-old has contested nine point-to-points/hunter chases over the last 18 months, though it’s his recent form that is worth taking note of.

In April 2023 he beat Billaway and Ferns Lock over 3m1f and since that success, he has won two races, the most recent of which was a 10-length success at Gowran Park.

All of his recent runs have occurred over three miles, though back in his heyday, he won over 2m4f on heavy ground and even finished third in the 2022 Topham over course and distance.

His ability to stay further than the 2m5f test of the Foxhunters’ is a massive positive as the race will test stamina thanks to the heavy going description.

With part-owner Patrick Mullins onboard to do the steering, I’m hoping for a big run from Annamix.


4:40 Aintree – Sans Bruit @ 8/1 with William Hill – 1pt EW

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After a few hours of trying to find a way to take on Saint Roi, I had all but given up hope until the case for Sans Bruit began to grow on me.

The French import loves heavy ground having won many times in France in testing conditions, though some notable pieces of form include his victory over Golden Son (a now-stablemate) and Gaelic Warrior (the most recent Arkle winner) while giving weight away as a three-year-old.

Admittedly, a lot of water has gone under the bridge since, but he won four races after that in France before heading over to Paul Nicholls’.

After two runs over hurdles, he picked his form up when second at Chepstow earlier this month on his first start over fences in the UK, though he has plenty of chasing experience from his time in France.

A mark of 130 for this unexposed handicap chaser is lenient and I’m willing to take a chance on him. If tomorrow isn’t the day, then I’ll keep a close eye on him going forward.


5:15 Aintree – La Marquise @ 33/1 with William Hill – 0.5pt EW

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In the final race on day one, La Marquise is a horse I’ve watched all season (thanks to a helping earlier-season pointer from trainer Jamie Snowden) and tomorrow is her first test in the deep end of a Grade 2.

The four-year-old gets eight pounds from the older mares, though she doesn’t lack experience having raced three times, two of which were successes.

By Beaumec De Houelle, a new French sire who won five races over hurdles in France including a Grade 1 success over Pic D’Orhy, La Marquise is a half to the Grade 3-winning Mister Policeman and comes from the family of Faulkner, a horse who placed in a Grade 1 with Doug Watson in Meydan.

The manner of her success at Chepstow on her last start was eye-catching as Gavin Sheehan didn’t give her a tough time, all he needed was the use of hands and heels to pick up the victory.

She has form on soft ground and that relation to Mister Policeman (and her sire) suggests heavy ground should cause no issues.

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