Empire to strike back at Aintree following Cheltenham disappointment
EMPIRE Of Dirt can make amends for his Cheltenham eclipse by landing the Betway Bowl, one of the feature events on the opening day of the Grand National Festival at Aintree.
Gordon Elliott's charge is one of just seven runners in the Grade One feature and as all but Silviniaco Conti are seeking consolation following defeat in the Cotswolds, it looks a pretty hard contest to read.
However, Empire Of Dirt makes most appeal after turning in a solid, if unspectacular, effort in finishing fourth behind Un De Sceaux in the Ryanair Chase over two miles and five furlongs.
The 10-year-old was sent for that contest rather than the Gold Cup as Gigginstown felt Outlander held a better chance for them in the main event.
However, given Empire Of Dirt had previously been beaten just under a length by eventual Gold Cup hero Sizing John in the Irish version, one cannot help but think connections might have been left wondering, ‘What if?'.
Either way, the step back up to three miles and a furlong is in his favour, as is the likely decent ground so Empire Of Dirt can seize his moment to shine.
The New One should thrive for a two-and-a-half-mile test in the Betway Aintree Hurdle.
Nigel Twiston-Davies' runner has plenty of ground to make up with Champion Hurdle hero Buveur D'Air, but over this extra half a mile, The New One will have a little more time to get on terms.
The nine-year-old is still a little short of his very best, but his current mark of 162 puts him within shouting distance of the favourite and having won this race before, he knows what is required at Aintree.
Defi Du Seuil will not be much of a price for the Doom Bar Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle but it is impossible to pick a hole in his form.
Philip Hobbs' charge put to rest any notion that the spring ground would find him out when running out a five-length winner of Triumph Hurdle and he should cap off a terrific campaign with another win here.
Top Notch had to settle for second at Cheltenham, but he can gain Grade One compensation in the opening Manifesto Novices' Chase.
The six-year-old made a bad mistake at the penultimate fence in the JLT and given he was only beaten a length by Yorkhill, that was probably a pretty costly slip.
He deserves considerable credit for the way he rallied for another challenge that day and Top Notch is expected to be in the front rank once again.
Pacha Du Polder was another to hit the target at Cheltenham and he can again foil On The Fringe, who is seeking a third win in the Randox Health Foxhunters' Open Hunters' Chase.
On The Fringe could finish only fourth at Cheltenham and while the Aintree fences provide a completely different test, Pacha Du Polder has successfully negotiated the National fences in the past and can do so again.
IRISH NEWS YANKEE
Nap: Empire Of Dirt
Double: The New One
Treble: Defi Du Seuil
Yankee: Top Notch