Grand National Festival: Empire Of Dirt can dig out victory on the opening day at Aintree

Empire Of Dirt ridden by Bryan Cooper.
Empire Of Dirt ridden by Bryan Cooper.
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Empire Of Dirt can make amends for his Cheltenham eclipse by landing the Betway Bowl, one of the feature events on the opening day of the Grand National Festival at Aintree.

Gordon Elliott’s charge is one of just seven runners in the Grade One feature and as all but Silviniaco Conti are seeking consolation following defeat in the Cotswolds, it looks a pretty hard contest to read.

However, Empire Of Dirt makes most appeal after turning in a solid, if unspectacular, effort in finishing fourth behind Un De Sceaux in the Ryanair Chase over two miles and five furlongs.

The 10-year-old was sent for that contest rather than the Gold Cup as Gigginstown felt Outlander held a better chance for them in the main event.

However, given Empire Of Dirt had previously been beaten just under a length by eventual Gold Cup hero Sizing John in the Irish version, one cannot help but think connections might have been left wondering, ‘What if?’.

Either way, the step back up to three miles and a furlong is in his favour, as is the likely decent ground so Empire Of Dirt can seize his moment to shine.

Road To Respect can make it a Grade One double for Gigginstown as he tackles the opening Manifesto Novices’ Chase.

He landed the two-mile-five-furlong Plate at the Festival in fine style, breezing home by six lengths in what is supposed to be one of the most competitive heats of the year.

Noel Meade’s runner clearly faces some fine rivals at Aintree, but having turned in a couple of decent shows at the highest level earlier in the campaign, Grade One level is certainly not beyond him and this intermediate trip should be right up his street.

The New One is another who should thrive for a two-and-a-half-mile test in the Betway Aintree Hurdle.

Nigel Twiston-Davies’ runner has plenty of ground to make up with Champion Hurdle hero Buveur D’Air, but over this extra half a mile, The New One will have a little more time to get on terms.


AINTREE: 1.45 Road To Respect, 2.20 Defi Du Seuil (next best), 2.50 EMPIRE OF DIRT (NAP), 3.20 The New One, 4.05 Pacha Du Polder, 4.40 Hollywoodien, 5.15 Petticoat Tails.

CHELSMFORD: 5.45 Brother In Arms, 6.15 Extra Mile, 6.45 Harlow, 7.15 Hairdryer, 7.45 Maghfoor, 8.15 Soundbyte, 8.45 Fujin.

SOUTHWELL: 1.55 Prince Of Time, 2.30 Ventura Knight, 3.00 Lakeski, 3.35 Fern Owl, 4.15 Alexander M, 4.50 Yeeoow, 5.25 Cadeaux Pearl.

TAUNTON: 2.10 Gambol, 2.40 Red Indian, 3.15 Master Burbidge, 3.55 Polo The Mumm, 4.30 Black Corton, 5.05 High Hatton, 5.35 Rebound.