Trainer Tom Mullins believes Asian Maze can improve on her fantastic Aintree record when she bids to become the fifth horse to register back-to-back victories in the £160,000 Grade One Baltika Beer Aintree Hurdle (2.50pm) on Saturday, April 14.
The crack mare secured a scintillating 17-length success over dual Champion Hurdler Hardy Eustace in the two and a half mile contest last year to make it two from two at the course, having landed the Grade One Citroen C6 Sefton Novices’ Hurdle over an extended three miles in 2005.
Mullins revealed today: “We’re definitely hoping to run Asian Maze in the Baltika Beer Aintree Hurdle again.”
Asian Maze, who is also twice a Grade One winner at the Punchestown Festival, has shown her true form only once in six starts this season, when runner-up to Iktitaf in the Grade One Morgiana Hurdle at the same Irish course in November, but Mullins believes the eight-year-old has come on since her seventh of 10 in the Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham last month.
The County Kilkenny trainer reported: “She’s great after Cheltenham. We think she’s very well and even since the Champion Hurdle she’s bucked up considerably.
“I was disappointed with her Cheltenham run - she backed off at the fourth hurdle and then only finished 19 lengths off them - but I just think that the ground all season in Ireland didn’t allow us to get her physically or mentally right for that sort of a race.
“She’s loving the sunshine at the moment and, with a bit of luck, we’ll be hoping for a repeat of last year.”
The last horse to score back-to-back successes in the Baltika Beer Aintree Hurdle was another Irish raider, the Tom Foley-trained Danoli (1994 & 1995).
Monksfield scored a hat-trick (including a dead-heat with the great Night Nurse in the inaugural running) between 1977 and 1979, while Daring Run (1981 & 1982) and Aonoch (1986 & 1987) both recorded two wins.
The brilliant Morley Street achieved the amazing feat of four consecutive wins in the prestigious Grade One contest (1990-1993).
Other distinguished names on the Baltika Beer Aintree Hurdle roll of honour include Gaye Brief (1983), Dawn Run (1984), Beech Road (1989), Istabraq (1999) and Rhinestone Cowboy (2004).
The Grade One Baltika Beer Aintree Hurdle is part of a fantastic seven-race card on Saturday, April 14, the highlight of which is the world’s most famous steeplechase, the £700,000 Grade Three John Smith’s Grand National (4.15pm).
The thrilling four and a half mile contest is the showpiece of the tremendous three-day John Smith’s Grand National meeting (Thursday, April 12 - Saturday, April 14) and is watched by an estimated 600 million people worldwide.
Numbersixvalverde will this year attempt to become the first horse since the great Red Rum in 1973 and 1974 to win back-to-back renewals of the John Smith’s Grand National.
Red Rum was also the last horse to reclaim the prize, which he did in 1977 having finished runner-up in 1975 and 1976, and the Willie Mullins-trained Hedgehunter, successful in 2005 and runner-up 12 months ago, will bid to emulate that feat.
Aintree Racecourse is the home of the world's most famous jump race, the John Smith's Grand National.
Last year the region welcomed over 150,000 racegoers to the three-day meeting and generated around £35 million for the North West economy.
This year Liverpool is celebrating its 800th birthday, a perfect chance to experience the sport on offer, follow the region's musical heritage, enjoy the diverse culture or appreciate the 135km of glorious coastline. The city has been crowned European Capital of Culture for 2008 and it’s a great time to come and see the region and its unrivalled architecture and heritage.
Sefton is to the north of Liverpool and as well as being home to the Grand National, it has the aspiring classic seaside resort of Southport at its heart featuring exclusive shopping on Lord Street, the oldest surviving pier in the country and new for 2007 is Dune's Splashworld Waterpark.
Tickets and hospitality packages for all three days of the meeting are still available, for further information telephone +44 (0)151 522 2929. To book accommodation, or to find out more about the region, log on to www.visitliverpool.com/grandnational