Simonsig - Cheltenham 14/03/2012

Simonsig winning impressively at the Cheltenham Festival last month

  PICTURE: Patrick McCann (racingpost.com/photos)  

Neptune hero Simonsig the star name in Mersey

HUGELY impressive Cheltenham Festival winner Simonsig on Monday featured among 24 entries for Saturday's Grade 2 John Smith's Mersey Novices' Hurdle at Aintree.

Successful in the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle, the exciting six-year-old could be joined by his Nicky Henderson-trained stablemate Molotof and Prospect Wells, fifth in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Henderson is likely to send a strong team to Aintree on Saturday, but the Maghull Novices' Chase (in which he is set to run Racing Post Arkle winner Sprinter Sacre) and the Aintree Hurdle (Oscar Whisky) have both been reopened until Tuesday morning.

As sporting sights go, few match the sheer excitement of 40 horses thundering towards the first fence at Aintree for the John Smith's Grand National.

A race steeped in history that always provides a story, the Grand National is the ultimate test of endurance and skill for both horse and jockey, as the pairing must navigate 30 treacherous fences, and then still have enough stamina to make a challenge on the run-in.

To manage a clear round in the 4m4f epic is no mean achievement, with the fences notoriously difficult and offering unique challenges.

Over the years, there have been countless memorable moments, Devon Loch's phantom leap in the 1956 contest, Foinavon's shock 100-1 win in 1967 and the brilliance of Red Rum, who took the chase on three occasions in 1973, 74 and 77.

In 1981 Aldaniti and Bob Champion completed a heartwarming tale when winning the race, as Aldaniti had recovered from a career-threatening injury while jockey Champion had battled back from cancer.

In 2011 the race provided another fairytale story as Donald McCain emulated his father and Aintree legend Ginger when winning with Ballabriggs - and that came just a year after champion jockey Tony McCoy finally gained victory in the race at the 15th time of asking.