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A full house of 75,000 racing fans is expected to attend one of the world’s great races — the Grand National — scheduled to be run at Aintree on April 9.  

With the UK easing virus restrictions, Aintree officials have announced ticket sales are “booming” for the race to be run before a crowd for the first time since 2019.

The Grand National was not run at all in 2020 and took place behind closed doors last year when won by female jockey, Rachael Blackmore.

Jockey Club regional director Dickon White said: “The demand for admission tickets and for hospitality is higher than it has ever been. It is possibly down to the Rachael Blackmore factor after her win last year.

“The National was worth £750,000 when won by Minella Times in April 2021, but will have a seven-figure purse this year.

“We’re delighted that we’re putting the race back to £1m thanks to the support of the sponsors, Randox,” said White.

This is the 174th running of the famous race and trainer Ted Walsh has one of the leading fancies in Any Second Now who is the 16-1 co-favourite.

The 10-year-old knows the Aintree track well as he finished third in last year’s race.

“All is good with Any Second Now. He is in good form. He will have a couple of races between now and the National. I want to get two runs into him at least,” said Walsh.

Meanwhile, racing fans have greeted the news that dual Met winner Rainbow Bridge has been retired and will not contest the big Cape race on January 29 as the right call.

In a statement, trainer Eric Sands stated “he has had a niggle on the near fore and it has deteriorated over time with age and wear and tear. He ran a courageous third in the L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate and I noted some discomfort. Between his owners Mr and Ms Rattray, breeder Mary Slack and myself as the trainer, I believe the right decision has been made”, he said.

One Sporting Post blogger stated: “I always wondered why owners pushed their horses to the limit of their racing careers, but thanks to Mr Sands and Mr and Ms Rattray for their wisdom regarding Rainbow Bridge. It is the best decision ever. He gave you his all and made your purchase price of him a drop in the ocean compared to his stakes earned.”

Rainbow Bridge, who retires to the Wilgerbosdrift paddocks, won 11 of his 22 races and more than R8m in stakes.

The final Met field will be announced by Cape Racing on Wednesday and it remains to be seen whether star filly War Of Athena will feature among the acceptors after her below-par run at Turffontein on Saturday.

Sent off the 10-11 favourite, War Of Athena, an 11-time winner, never mounted a challenge in the fourth race and finished five lengths behind the winner, MK’s Pride.

Judged on this performance, the four-year-old looks to have little chance against the top Met fancies such as Kommetdieding, Jet Dark, Double Superlative and Linebacker. The race sponsors, World Sports Betting, pushed out War Of Athena’s price to 16-1. 


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