Bookmakers came out marginally on top as the second day of the Grand National meeting produced a mix of favourites and long-shot winners.
In scenes reminiscent of Cheltenham, the Irish were dominant from the off with a 22-1 victory in the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle courtesy of Denise Foster’s Tronador, who prevailed by two and a half lengths under Jack Kennedy and left 6-1 favourite Mister Coffey back in fourth.
Belfast Banter then backed up his County Hurdle effort with a triumphant run in the Betway Top Novices’ Hurdle at 9-1, whereas joint-favourites Dusart and Third Time Lucki came home in third and fourth respectively.
The next two races went the way of favourites as Chantry House also recorded a Cheltenham-Aintree double when claiming Betway Mildmay Novices’ Chase at 11-8 for Nico de Boinville and Nicky Henderson.
It was then the turn of Fakir D’oudairies, who was emphatic in winning the Marsh Chase for Mark Walsh and Joseph O’Brien, by 11 lengths at a price of 2-1.
Livelaughlove was another Irish winner when taking the Randox Topham Handicap Chase for Patrick and Willie Mullins at 15-2, with the 7-1 favourite Caribean Boy pulled up two fences from home.
The closing two contests saw the market leaders beaten, with the Doom Bar Sefton Novices’ Hurdle claimed by 66-1 chance Ahoy Senor, while the highly-fancied 13-8 shot Bravemansgame was seven lengths behind.
The Pinsent Masons Handicap Hurdle was a similar story as the 9-2 joint-favourite Camprond finished second behind Rowland Ward, who prevailed at 12-1 for Charlie Hammond and Stuart Edmunds.
Paddy Power spokesman Paul Binfield said: “It was an up and down day and a score draw between bookies and punters, with the former assisted by the last result and slightly ahead going into National day.
“But, as ever, the final outcome of the meeting will all come down to the Grand National itself.”
Coral’s David Stevens painted a similar picture, saying: “The second day of the meeting started well for us, with Tronador and Belfast Banter both beating better-fancied rivals in the opening two races, but then punters fought back with victories for well-backed favourites Chantry House and Fakir D’oudairies.
“However, although Livelovelaugh was not without his backers in the Topham, that was as good as it got for punters, with Ahoy Senor and Rowland Ward ensuring we ended the day in front, although punters will very much get their revenge if Rachael Blackmore makes history in the National.”