Willie Mullins aims big guns at Aintree

The Crabbie’s Grand National meeting could start with a bang as the imperious Douvan is among 18 entries in the Merseryrail Manifesto Novices’ Chase next Thursday.

Willie Mullins aims big guns at Aintree

And there is the chance that Willie Mullins’ unbeaten Arkle Trophy hero will have to face his biggest field over fences to date.

Mullins has also entered RSA Chase third Shaneshill in the near two-and-a-half-mile Grade One contest, while Nicky Henderson can call on L’Ami Serge and Volnay De Thaix, with JLT faller Garde Le Victoire a possible for Philip Hobbs.

Arkle runner-up Sizing John could take on Douvan again, having chased him home on five separate occasions.

Meanwhile Cue Card and Vautour are the star attractions among 16 entries for the Betfred Bowl, also on Thursday.

Connections were left wondering what might have been when the Colin Tizzard-trained 10-year-old Cue Card fell three out when just hitting the front in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, but he would almost certainly have been involved in the finish.

Vautour won at the Festival for a third successive year, making the most of a late switch to the Ryanair Chase.

Vautour’s trainer Willie Mullins has also entered Gold Cup second and third Djakadam and Don Poli, along with Valseur Lido and Boston Bob, who is also a possible for the Grand National.

Saphir Du Rheu, Wakanda, Fine Rightly and Dynaste are all engaged, as is Road To Riches but he is due to run this weekend.

Mullins has made good on his promise to throw plenty of darts at the Grand National meeting and Annie Power is one of four top-class entries in the Doom Bar Aintree Hurdle, also on the opening day.

Mullins has around £150,000 to find to trump Paul Nicholls in the race to be champion trainer in Britain and with neither holding obvious claims in the National itself, the Grade One races are where it is likely to be won.

Annie Power, supplemented for the Champion Hurdle in the absence of the previous year’s winner and stablemate Faugheen, would arguably be running over her favourite trip of two and a half miles.

She could be joined by Nichols Canyon, Sempre Medici or even Vroum Vroum Mag.

Nicholls has a strong contender himself in Aux Ptits Soins, who travelled well for a long way in the World Hurdle, his first race since winning the Coral Cup last season.

Camping Ground, Diamond King, Identity Thief, Cheltenham runner-up My Tent Or Yours and previous winner The New One are also among a 12-strong field.

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