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The New One heads field for Aintree Hurdle

The obsession with its climax, for better or worse, tends to mean that the first two days of the Aintree Grand National meeting can be unjustly overlooked.

But some of the sport scheduled at Aintree before Saturday is more than a match for the championship events at Cheltenham last month – not least now that Sprinter Sacre has been diverted there to try two and a half miles on Friday.

Tomorrow's opening card features a first clash between The New One, so impressive in novice company at the Festival, and several more seasoned members of the elite.

After nine declarations were made for the Aintree Hurdle yesterday, Coral chalked up The New One 3/1 favourite to beat the Champion Hurdle third and fourth, Countrywide Flame and Zarkandar, both quoted 4/1.

Falling

Grandouet, still on the bridle when falling in the Champion, is 9/2 and his stablemate Oscar Whisky is 6/1 to win the race a third year running.

Barry Geraghty has chosen to ride Grandouet, leaving Tony McCoy to step in for Oscar Whisky.

Ruby Walsh, having won the Champion on Hurricane Fly, takes over on Zarkandar, which will wear blinkers for the first time.

Nicholls will saddle Silviniaco Conti in the Betfred Bowl. Still going strongly when falling three out in the Gold Cup, Silviniaco Conti is 10/11 favourite with the sponsors to make amends. First Lieutenant, the Ryanair Chase runner-up, is 100/30.

With the weather remaining cold but dry, and watering under way, the National course remains good to soft, good in places.

Irish Independent