TIPPERARY PREVIEW: Halford hoping Zarib will triumph at Tipp

GLOBE-TROTTING trainer Tom Hogan's son Andrew oversees his first race meeting as manager of Tipperary racecourse on Thursday evening.

Hogan started working his way into the role towards the end of last year and was yesterday keen to get this term started tonight.

He said: "The track is in fabulous condition thanks to Perry Power and his team and I'm just delighted to be getting this opportunity. I have big shoes to fill following Jane Davis but hopefully everything will go according to plan.

He added: "I worked with Horse Racing Ireland before coming to Tipperary and at the Irish National Stud. I also rode as an amateur while studying business at college."

The downside to his new position is that he has not been able to follow Gordon Lord Byron, trained by his father, as he has excelled in France, Hong Kong and Australia.

He said: "I haven't travelled with him since his first trip to Hong Kong in December 2012. It would have been great to have been in Australia for his win recently, but we're just too busy getting everything organised here for the start of the season."

Tipperary opens with a Flat card featuring two valuable handicaps. The Aga Khan's Zarib takes topweight in the later of those over 1m1f. Trainer Michael Halford said: "This is his first time racing on soft ground, but he's a big strong horse and we think he'll handle it."

Course and distance winner Beacon Lodge is poised to star in the opening €13,000 contest over 7 1/2f, but faces a strong challenge from Irish Lincolnshire third Canary Row

Trainer Patrick Prendergast said: "Even though he likes a cut in the ground, the ground was too bad for him at Cork last time out. He couldn't seem to find his feet. The small field might suit him, he broke his maiden in one."

Top premier handicap performer Bubbly Bellini was sixth in a Group 3 last Sunday and is ridden by champion apprentice Connor King for the third time.

Trainer Ado McGuinness said: "He didn't have a hard race last Sunday and when we saw the field was breaking up we decided to try and get his head in front. He's grubbed up well all week and has enjoyed himself on the beach a couple of days."

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.