THE Grand National meeting looks set to prove decisive in the race between Paul Nicholls and Willie Mullins for the British trainers’ championship, with £30,909 currently separating the pair.
AS THINGS STAND
Nicholls: £1,996,272 (best odds: 11-4)
Mullins: £1,965,363 (best odds: 4-11)
Mullins all but closed the gap with a stellar first day, capped with Annie Power’s £112,540 haul in the Grade 1 Doom Bar Aintree Hurdle, in which Nichols Canyon picked up £21,220 in third.
Earlier Apple’s Jade’s 41-length victory in the Grade 1 Betfred Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle resulted in Mullins adding £56,270 to his total, while Don Poli and Djakadam’s second and third in the Bowl saw him eat a further £47,715 into the lead of title rival Nicholls.
After his Thursday prize-money haul Mullins is now a best-priced 4-11 with Betfred to become British champion jumps trainer.
Mullins did not saddle a runner in the meeting’s opening £100,000 Merseyrail Manifesto Novices’ Chase, won by Arzal, but the Nicholls-trained 16-1 shot Bouvreuil finished fourth to add a further £5,300 to his tally.
The reigning champion picked up £7,960 with Diego Du Charmil and Romain De Senam, fourth and fifth behind Apple’s Jade, while Saphir Du Rheu, sixth in the Bowl, added a further £1,995 and Pacha Du Polder’s sixth in the Fox Hunters’ Chase brought in another £468.
Away from Aintree Nicholls landed the £4,548.60 first prize for the Porter Dodson Novices’ Hurdle at Taunton, while his Qualando was beaten in a photo-finish for the Dave Criddle Travel Handicap Hurdle, resulting in an additional £1,908 haul.
Saturday’s big race itself and its seven-figure prize fund would deliver a knockout blow should either succeed with their combined ten runners, but with £2.9 million available throughout the meeting both are going all-out to accrue the necessary winnings wherever they can.
As Cheltenham showed, Mullins has the stronger firepower and he is not letting Aintree away lightly, sending Champion Hurdler Annie Power, Ryanair Chase winner Vautour and Gold Cup-placed pair Djakadam and Don Poli.
Nicholls lacks in relative numbers, but has a few big punches in him, notably Silviniaco Conti, who is among the favourites for the Grand National itself.
We will keep you up to date all through Aintree with a blow-by-blow account of the most hard-fought trainers’ championship in a decade.
Still to come . . .
£40,000 Goffs Nickel Coin Mares’ Bumper (5.15)
Mullins: Augusta Kate (7-2)
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