Grand National takes centre stage in April

Horse racing fans in the United Kingdom and Ireland have plenty to look forward to in April, with the upcoming schedule packed with top-class meetings.

Followers of National Hunt racing will be in their element as the best long-distance steeplechasers in the business have the chance to showcase their talents.

Read on as we look at what is on the agenda in April, starting with a meeting which always attracts massive interest in online betting circles.

Grand National Festival – Aintree – April 11-13

The Grand National meeting at Aintree is a three-day showcase of jump racing and is headlined by one of the most iconic events in the sport.

There are four Grade 1 races on the opening day including the Aintree Bowl and the Aintree Hurdle – each of which always attract a high-class line-up.

Day Two is Ladies Day, where fashion and sport come together to demonstrate that people north of England are also capable of showing their glamourous side.

Another four Grade 1 events are staged including the Melling Chase, which was won last year by the Paul Nicholls trained Pic D’Orhy.

The final day is undoubtedly all about the Grand National – a race which enjoys a truly unique status in the horse racing calendar in the UK.

Many people have their only bet of the year on the National, highlighting its ability to attract interest from all corners of the sporting universe.

Last year’s winner Corach Rambler is the favourite for the race and could be tough to beat after running well to finish third in the 2024 Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Craven Meeting – Newmarket – April 16-18

Attention quickly switches to flat racing the following week as Newmarket Racecourse stages the three-day Craven Meeting.

Dating back to the 1770s, this meeting is an important step towards the Guineas Festival which takes place at the same venue in early May.

The highlight of the three days is the Group Three Craven Stakes on Thursday – a trial for the upcoming QIPCO 2000 Guineas on the Rowley Mile.

Trainer Charlie Appleby has won three of the last five editions of the Craven and will likely have a fancied runner in this year’s renewal.

However, whichever horse wins the Craven will find it difficult to follow up in the 2000 Guineas, with the betting for that race dominated by City Of Troy.

The horse was a standout performer as a two-year-old, sparking talk from trainer Aidan O’Brien that he could be racing’s next big superstar.

On that basis, the Craven could be a useful pointer for identifying which horse offers each-way value in the 2000 Guineas.

Punchestown Festival – Punchestown – April 30 – May 4

Ireland’s equivalent of the Cheltenham Festival starts on the final day in April and will likely be dominated by champion trainer Willie Mullins.

He had nine winners at Cheltenham this year, taking his career tally to 103 and clinching the leading trainer title for the tenth time.

Mullins made a flying start to the Punchestown Festival in 2023, rattling home a four-timer which included Grade 1 wins in the KPMG Champion Novice Hurdle and the Willian Hill Champion Chase.

He subsequently fired home another 13 winners over the next four days to demonstrate why he is the man bookmakers fear most in jumps racing.

Mullins is sure to have plenty of fancied runners this year at a meeting which has a whopping 40 races including 12 Grade 1 contests.

These include the Punchestown Gold Cup, Champion Stayers’ Hurdle and the Boodles Champion Hurdle – each of which have previously been won by Mullins.

With live music and family entertainment also in the mix, the Punchestown Festival is an event which can be enjoyed by people of all ages.

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