Welcome to our live blog for the John Smith's Grand National at Aintree, where the tension is already building ahead of the big race.
Bookmakers Coral predict upwards of £150million will be wagered on today's big race at Aintree, with spokesman Simon Clare stating: “The Grand National remains the one sporting occasion that prompts millions of people to place their one and only bet of the year and we expect two thirds of the adult population to have money on the famous race."
Good omen for backers of Chicago Grey in the National as Paul Carberry claims victory in the John Smith's Liverpool Hurdle on board Irish raider Solwhit, who followed up his World Hurdle success at the Cheltenham Festival with another Grade 1 win.
Solwhit was 9/4 favourite but we've also already had a couple of outsiders winning today, with 22/1 chance Ubak taking the Mersey Novices' Hurdle and 28/1 longshot Special Tiara springing a surprise in the Maghull Novices' Chase.
Rising star Bryan Cooper rode Special Tiara to victory and is on Rare Bob in the National: "He's been trained for the race ever since last year and is in great form, so hopefully he can get a bit of luck in running. He's had a great preparation, the trip will be no problem and the drying ground will suit him."
Racegoers were also treated to a trip down memory lane earlier when Tony Dobbin, successful in the famous Monday National in 1997 on Lord Gyllene, enoyed a successful return to Liverpool by riding War Singer to victory in the John Smith's Aintree Legends Charity Race.
Bob Champion, with Jonjo O'Neill alongside, led the 11 charity race runners to the start in the colours he carried to victory in the 1981 Grand National on Aldaniti. Champion's Cancer Trust benefits from this event and he said: "That was fantastic. The guys in the race had ridden thousands of winners between them and they clearly still know what they are doing."
Latest jockey news and Noel Fehily will deputise for Andrew Lynch aboard Treacle in the Grand National. Fehily comes in for the spare ride after Lynch suffered minor injuries when he was unseated from Mister First in the Topham Chase yesterday.
Many punters are hoping for a historic first National win for a female rider today, with Katie Walsh and Seabass set to go off as heavily-backed favourites. William Hill spokesman Richard Thomas said: “Seabass is set to start the shortest priced favourite since Hedgehunter (6/1) in 2006, and could be the shortest priced winner since L’Escargot (13/2) in 1975. Whilst a victory for the Katie Walsh-ridden, Ted Walsh-trained Seabass would be a fantastic story for the Grand National, it would be a painful blow for bookmakers.”
Coral are offering 15/8 for any member of the Walsh family to win today's Grand National. Katie rides Seabass for her father Ted, who also trains Colbert Station, while Ruby will be on board On His Own. "The Walsh family have a stranglehold on the front three in the betting and victory for any of them would be bad news for bookies," said spokesman Simon Clare.
Ladbrokes still fear Tony McCoy more than a first victory for a female rider, though, with spokesman David Williams stating: "A win for Katie Walsh would be the fairytale story and could cost us a small fortune as females will go into a fluttering frenzy for Seabass, but McCoy is still the pied piper of the punters. They dance to his tune on the biggest day of them all and Colbert Station has been heavily backed."
It's been a great year for Welsh sport so far, with the national rugby team taking the Six Nations title, Swansea winning soccer's Capital One Cup and Cardiff flying high in the Championship. Can Cappa Bleu or Teaforthree become the first National hero trained in the Principality since 1905?
BetVictor report they have already smashed last year’s record number of bets on the world’s most famous steeplechase. Spokesperson Charlie McCann said: “We are absolutely delighted by the spread and volume of business and have already taken substantially more bets on the great race than in 2012. On His Own is the weakest at the front end of the market and Teaforthree has been well backed."
Last year's Grand National winning jockey Daryl Jacob has warmed up for this season's big one by claiming an emphatic victory on board Battle Group in the 3.25. He rides Join Together in the National this time and said: "I can't wait to get on with it now!"
Champion trainer Paul Nicholls broke his National duck with Neptune Collonges last year and said of this season's best hope: "Join Together has been trained for the race and ran really well here in the Becher Chase when only beaten a nose. It looked that day as though another circuit would suit him well."
William Hill gave a number of top football managers £5,000 in charity bets, with any winnings going to the NSPCC, and Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson has gone for each-way wagers on Seabass, Ballabriggs, Join Together and Chicago Grey, plus his own horses What A Friend and Harry The Viking.
QPR chief Harry Redknapp is on Seabass, On His Own and Imperial Commander each-way, stating: “I’ve taken part in the tipping challenge before and have been pipped to the post, so am hoping that 2013 will be my year. Hopefully luck will be on my side and I’ll pick some winning horses to help raise lots of money for the NSPCC – a charity I’m proud to support.”
The money continues to pour in for Katie Walsh and Seabass, who are now 7/1 for a famous triumph. Quiscover Fontaine and Rare Bob are among those attracting each-way support.
Imperial Commander bids to become only the third Cheltenham Gold Cup winner in history to claim the John Smith's Grand National and trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies said: "It wouldn't get any better than that and I'm not worried about the statistics. I think he's as good as ever."