Grand National: Aintree & AP McCoy set for 2015 meeting
|Crabbie's Grand National 2015, Aintree|
|Festival dates: 9-11 April Grand National: Saturday 11 April at 16:15 BST|
|Coverage: Live commentaries of all the big races on BBC Radio 5 live and online with live text commentary on 11 April.|
Aintree is expecting dry, warm weather as its three-day Grand National meeting starts on Thursday - with a hint of history in the air.
Retiring 19-time champion jockey AP McCoy is riding at the meeting for the final time and will be on Holywell in the Betfred Bowl.
He also rides Jezki as the horse takes on fellow former champion hurdler Rock On Ruby and this year's Cheltenham runner-up Arctic Fire in the Aintree Hurdle.
The first action over the National fences sees amateur jockeys compete in the Fox Hunters' Chase.
Sam Waley-Cohen rides leading contender Warne with the jockey looking to add to his fine record of five career wins over the big obstacles.
Holywell was fourth in last month's Cheltenham Gold Cup and renews rivalry with dual King George VI Chase winner Silviniaco Conti, who finished seventh when favourite.
Full Thursday race schedule
(Times BST, race, status, distance. Feature race in bold)
13:40 Manifesto Novices' Steeple Chase (Grade 1) 2m 4f
14:15 Aintree Anniversary 4YO Juvenile Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 1f
14:50 Betfred Bowl Steeple Chase (Grade 1) 3m 1f Jump
15:25 Doom Bar Aintree Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 4f Jump
16:05 Crabbie's Fox Hunters' Steeple Chase (Class 2) 2m 5½f
16:40 Aintree Red Rum Handicap Steeple Chase (Grade 3) 2m
17:15 Injured Jockeys Fund Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) 3m ½f
What is AP McCoy riding?
The Northern Irishman will ride in the Grand National for a record 20th - and final - time on Saturday, with favourite Shutthefrontdoor his expected mount.
McCoy, 40, has indicated he will quit there and then if he wins the National, with Sandown on 25 April his alternative final day.
He has been leading jockey at the meeting seven times (the last in 2010) and has six rides booked for the opening day.
On the eve of the meeting, a giant image of McCoy was beamed on to Liverpool's Royal Liver Building.
(Race, horse, trainer, approximate odds)
13:40 Three Kingdoms (John Ferguson) 9-1
14:15 Hargam (Nicky Henderson) Evens favourite
14:50 Holywell (Jonjo O'Neill) 15-8
15:25 Jezki (Jessica Harrington) 11-4
16:40 Ned Buntline (Noel Meade) 7-1
17:15 Unique De Cotte (David Pipe) 8-1
What is the weather/going?
The going on the National and hurdle tracks at the Merseyside track is described as Good to Soft. The Mildmay is Good to Soft, Good in places.
BBC Radio 5 live weather forecaster Simon King said: "It's going to be a cracking start to the Grand National meeting with racing taking place under sunny skies, light winds and a temperature reaching around 18C.
"The big change will come on Grand National Day; with a stronger wind, it will feel much cooler with a maximum temperature only reaching 10C. There could be a few showers during the morning, but by the afternoon it should be dry and sunny."
Latest on the Grand National
The final field was announced on Thursday morning, with the maximum of 40 horses set to take part in Saturday's race.
"When you start out as a jump jockey, the Grand National is the race you want to take part in and more than that the race you want to win," said McCoy.
|Grand National 2015 odds|
|7-1 Shutthefrontdoor; 10-1 Rocky Creek, Balthazar King; 12-1 The Druid's Nephew; 14-1 Cause Of Causes; 16-1 Alvarado; 20-1 Spring Heeled, Soll, Godsmejudge. 25-1 Bar|
Punters will be keeping a keen eye on the weather, with drying ground thought to suit some contenders including last year's runner-up Balthazar King (12-1) and Cause Of Causes (20-1).
Safety in the spotlight
The National meeting attracts opposition from animal rights campaigners who believe it is cruel.
Aintree made significant changes to the National course after two horses were fatally injured in both the 2011 and 2012 runnings.
The race has been shortened slightly, and some alterations made to the take-off and landings near fences, but perhaps the most significant change has been the use of more forgiving plastic (rather than wooden) cores for the fences.
Jump racing is a dangerous sport, although there were no serious equine injuries in any race at the 2014 meeting, and no horses have died in the last two Grand Nationals.