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Six Irish runners bid to secure Aintree success

Last season’s winner Balnaslow features among a bumper 27 strong line up for Thursday’s Randox Health Foxhunters over the Grand National fences at Aintree.

In all, there are six horses that will be crossing the Irish Sea to tackle the 2m 5f course, with Graham McKeever’s Balnalow seeking to bounce back from two efforts this season which have seen him finish last at Oldtown, before pulling-up in the Foxhunters at the Cheltenham Festival.

Mark O’Hare is back aboard the 12-year-old for the first time since the pair finished fifth in a Tinahely open in January 2017.

Derek O’Connor, who had been aboard Balnaslow for that two-and-a-half length victory in last year’s renewal, has instead chosen to ride Burning Ambition.

The eight-year-old had been sent off as the favourite for last year’s Cheltenham Foxhunters, for which he could only manage eighth, and has returned this season, winning at both Templencarriga in January, and in Hunter Chase company at Down Royal last month.

With regular rider Rob James suspended, O’Connor comes in for the plum ride on what is the second favourite for Pierce Power.

According to the market, Gordon Elliott is responsible for the two other big Irish chances, as he is doubly represented by Ucello Conti and Kruzhlinin.

The former had won three races on the bounce, before only managing fifth in the Cheltenham Foxhunters, and Jamie Codd, who was aboard on that occasion, is maintaining the partnership aboard the 11-year-old who will be tackling the National fences for a fifth time, having unshipped on each of his last two attempts in consecutive Grand Nationals.

Barry O’Neill is back aboard his stable companion Kruzhlinin, having guided him to three of his seven successes between the flags this season, which have left him on the top of the champion point-to-point horse category.

David Christie will give owner-rider David Maxwell the leg up aboard Road To Riches. Their 12-year-old former Grade 1 winner was last seen winning a Carlisle Hunter Chase by 14 lengths.

Coastal Tiep completes the Irish challenge, with the two-time open winner looking to repeat his fine second to the re-opposing Ucello Conti at Navan, having pulled-up last time out in the Cheltenham Foxhunters.

Ben Crawford is once again aboard the seven-year-old for his elder brother Stuart, who will see their Portrush winner, Glynn, at the Goffs UK Aintree Sale later that day. 

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