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Robust plans in place following Cheltenham interloper

Richard Melia, left (blue shirt), celebrates Sizing John's Gold Cup victory
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Officials at Aintree are confident their winner's enclosure procedures are robust enough to ensure there is no repeat of the scene at Cheltenham last month when an unconnected interloper led back Gold Cup winner Sizing John.

John Baker, the Jockey Club's regional director for the north-west, said: "We review these matters year on year and had already taken steps before the Cheltenham incident. I can't go into them for obvious reasons, but we are confident our measures are pretty stringent.

"After what happened at Cheltenham we went back and had another look and we are satisfied we have a pretty robust plan in place."

Baker said there will be walk-up entry still for Tattersalls on Thursday and Friday but Saturday is all but sold out.

Your chance to ride Red Rum

Among the choice of anniversaries Aintree is celebrating, it is majoring on Red Rum's third Grand National win in 1977 with a marquee dedicated to memorabilia and the retelling of the story. 

John Baker said: "It's the 50th anniversary of Foinavon's win and 20 years since the bomb-scare National, but it's also 40 years since Red Rum's third win and we have a whole marquee dedicated to it.

"Red Rum is such a great story and we are trying to bring it to life in a number of ways. Among them will be an opportunity to put on the silks and ride 'Red Rum' in the Red Rum garden, through the use of an Equicizer and a projected image of his Nationals on a screen." 

Skelton star on show

Aintree racegoers are in for a treat on day one of the Randox Health Grand National meeting on Thursday as showjumping aces Nick Skelton and Big Star will parade before racing.

Skelton and Big Star were part of Britain's Olympic gold medal-winning team in London 2012, and claimed a second gold in Rio last year in the individual event. The rider announced on Wednesday that he will retire next month.

They will be in the winner’s enclosure between 12.45 and 1.10, and again in the parade ring at 2.30.

Skelton, father of trainer Dan and jockey Harry, said: "Big Star is in great shape and we look forward to meeting racegoers and parading at Aintree."

Familiar face absent

One person who will be missing from Aintree this year is Alf Brannigan, an on-course Racing Post seller for 30 years who died last month aged 73.

Brannigan, born and bred in Liverpool, was a regular at Aintree and tracks in the Midlands and north-east and would be joined on course by his wife Barbara.

The Racing Post's circulation executive Anthony Ive said: "Alf's role made him many friends over the years, which he truly appreciated. The thoughts of all at the Racing Post are with his friends and family."

Aintree Thursday cards

Big Star is in great shape and we look forward to meeting racegoers and parading at Aintree
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