Nicky Henderson captured the headlines on the opening day of Aintree's Grand National meeting with Shishkin and Constitution Hill providing the Seven Barrows team with a Grade 1 double. The former was tackling three miles for the first time since November 2018 and the dual Cheltenham Festival winner needed every yard of the trip to reel in Ahoy Senor who was seeking his third consecutive win at the fixture. It was much more straightforward for stable companion and Champion Hurdle winner Constitution Hill in the Aintree Hurdle. Stepping up to two and a half miles, the Blue Bresil gelding made all the running and wasn't hard pressed to beat Sharjah by three lengths. Unbeaten in seven races over hurdles, he was registering his sixth Grade 1 win and chasing now beckons.
As far as the Aintree Update is concerned, Zenta (advised @ 7/4) justified strong support in the Grade 1 four year old hurdle, but only just. Third in the Triumph Hurdle last time, Willie Mullins' filly travelled and jumped beautifully but had to be shaken up to fend off the renewed challenge of Top 40 entry Bo Zenith, who is finally showing what he is capable of. The pair pulled five lengths clear of the third Nusret. The winner has faced a lot this term winning in France towards the end of last year and running three times, including twice at the highest level for Mullins. She is a smart filly. The runner-up is getting better with each race and threatens to improve again over further next season.
The selections in the Red Rum Chase weren't far off the mark and it was frustrating to choose Grey Diamond ahead of Dancing On My Own from the shortlist of three. Henry De Bromhead's winner appreciated the fact the ground wasn't too bad and he had clearly been aimed at the race all season. I suspect Grey Diamond prefers a longer gap between his races and the fact it was only 22 days since his win at Haydock counted against him. The Last Day, the other selection and successful in the race twelve months ago, ran well in third - the drying conditons almost certainly played against him. Evan Williams' eleven year old prefers plenty of ease in the ground.
Elsewhere, Hititi (16/5) gave the Top 40 Prospects another winner when landing the hat-trick at Taunton. Robert Walford's charge was frustrating to follow during the first half of the campaign but has really got his act together since stepping up in distance. Successful at Exeter and Wincanton off marks of 111 and 120, he tackled three miles for the first time on Thursday and always looked in control. A length and a quarter winner, he has justified his inclusion and is a progressive young horse.
I am working at Aintree for Racing TV on Friday and Saturday and will therefore update the Diary on Sunday. All orders received before 11am on Thursday for Ahead On The Flat have been posted out. We now have less than 200 copies in stock. If you haven't ordered your copy, please head to the Publications section of the site - the three day Craven meeting at Newmarket gets underway on Tuesday next week followed by a couple of excellent days action at Newbury. Those few days signal the proper start to the Flat season.
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