Grand National Festival gets underway behind closed doors

The Grand National Festival is underway at Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool for the first time since 2019.

Last year's event was cancelled due to the Coronavirus lockdown, while this year's edition is behind closed doors. Thursday's programme of events have been named Liverpool NHS Day, in the tribute to the frontline staff who've worked across the city during the pandemic.

Credit: PA Images

Normally there'd be around 35,000 people roaring from the stands. Today there's been just a handful of media, trainers, jockeys and owners.

One of those owners was none other than Sir Alex Ferguson, who welcomed a whole host of winners on the day. No stranger to silverware, the former Manchester United manager lifted the Betway Bowl Chase trophy after his horse Clan Des Obeaux finished first in the 14:50. The famous Scot also saw Protektorat and Monmiral romp home to cap another famous treble for the 79-year-old.

Sir Alex Ferguson celebrates a win at Aintree Credit: PA Images

One of the big stories of the opening day was reigning Grand National Champion Tiger Roll.

He won back-to-back Nationals in 2018 and 2019, and would have been on target to equal Red Rum's Aintree record, but to a disagreement about handicaps, his owners withdrew him from the main event.

However Tiger did make an appearance on Thursday, competing in the Betway Bowl Chase. Sadly, it wasn't a day to remember for the 11-year-old, as he finished fourth.

Tiger Roll was back at Aintree for the first time since his landmark victory in 2019 Credit: PA Images

Of course, attention will soon turn towards the big one, Saturday's Grand National. To help you pick a winner, we caught up with a bookmaker at the course.

Grand National 2021 Runners & Riders

  • Cloth Cap (T. Scudamore)

  • Burrows Saint (P. Mullins)

  • Minella Times (R. Blackmore)

  • Kimberlite Candy (R. McLernon)

  • Any Second Now (M. Walsh)

  • Discorama (B. Cooper)

  • Magic of Light (R. Power)

  • Acapella Bourgeois (D. Mullins)

  • Mister Malarkey (J. O'Neill Jnr)

  • Potters Corner (J. Tudor)

  • Farclas (J. Kennedy)

  • Bristol De Mai (D. Jacob)

  • Anibale Fly (D. O'Regan)

  • TakingRisks (S. Quinlan)

  • Milan Native (J. Codd)

  • Yala Enki (B. Frost)

  • Lake View Lad (B. Hughes)

  • Lord Du Mesnil (N. Scholfield)

  • Chris's Dream (D. O'Keefe)

  • OK Corrall (D. O'Connor)

  • Shattered Love (K. Sexton)

  • Canelo (T. Bellamy)

  • The Long Mile (L. Dempsey)

  • Double Shuffle (J. Burke)

  • Definitely Red. (H. Brooke)

  • Balko Des Flos (A. Coleman)

  • Class Conti (B. Hayes)

  • Vieux Lion Rouge (C. O'Farrell)

  • Ballyoptic (S. Twiston-Davies)

  • TalkisCheap (T. Cannon)

  • Tout Est Permis (S. Flanagan)

  • Alpha Des Obeaux (J. McGarvey)

  • Jett (S. Waley-Cohen)

  • Minellacelebration (B. Poste)

  • Give Me a Copper (H. Cobden)

  • Hogans Height (G. Sheehan)

  • Blaklion (H. Skelton)

  • Cabaret Queen (S. O'Keefe)

  • Sub Lieutenant (T. Worsley)

  • Ami Debois (K. Woods)