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It's not just about the National at Aintree

WHILE the John Smith's Grand National takes centre stage at Aintree today, there is also a top-notch supporting card with a Grade 2 and two Grade 1s warming up the massive crowd for the big race at 4.15.

Nicky Henderson has taken the last two runnings of the Mersey Novices' Hurdle which gets things underway at 1.45 and with four winners at Aintree on Friday his runner this time around, Utopie Des Bordes, is certain to prove popular.

Henderson said: "She's a consistent and very versatile mare. She ran over three miles at Cheltenham, and this is her last opportunity to run in novice company. She must have a chance."

The name McCain will forever be associated with Aintree so it would be no surprise to see punters get stuck into Overturn who goes for Donald McCain, son of Red Rum's trainer Ginger, in the Maghull Novices' Chase at 2.15.

The trainer said: "I'm looking forward to it. He has his ground this time. A couple of people said Cheltenham didn't suit him but he was second in a Champion Hurdle. He just needed his ground. He ran here once before and it has always been a place you would expect to suit him."

Champion trainer Paul Nicholls has won the last four runnings of the Liverpool Hurdle (2.50) but with no Big Buck's running for him today he relies on Celestial Halo.

Nicholls said: "He ran really nicely at Cheltenham. I was thrilled to bits with him. If I could have put another fortnight's work into him it would have helped a bit but he ran a good race. Some said if he hadn't have made a mistake at the last he might have won but the winner won nicely and we have him to beat again."

As well as Aintree there is racing over jumps at Chepstow and on the Flat at Lingfield, Newcastle and Wolverhampton. In Ireland they race over jumps at Navan.

 Today's going

Aintree: good to soft, good in places on National and hurdle courses and good, good to soft in places on the Mildmay

Chepstow: good, good to firm in places

Lingfield (AW): standard

Navan: yielding (good in places hurdle course, soft in places chase course)

Newcastle: good to soft, soft in places.

Wolverhampton (AW): standard

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