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Grand National Festival Review: Rampant Rambler reigns at Aintree

The Grand National Festival at Aintree is done for another year and Corach Rambler lived up to his pre-race billing in style, winning for Lucinda Russell and Derek Fox.

It was of course their second success together in the race, six years on from One For Arthur's big moment, and a third win for Scotland.

There were also plenty of other stories to emerge across three brilliant days of action on Merseyside, including the latest virtuoso from Constitution Hill, Shishkin marking himself down as a potential Gold Cup contender for 2024 and Davy Russell getting the farewell his career deserved.

Here's our look back on some of the major talking points from Aintree.

Corach Rambler too good for National rivals

Though he was usurped as favourite as the countdown to the race concluded, Corach Rambler was back at the head of the market come post-time and he was much the best in the race itself.

Owned by The Ramblers syndicate, Corach Rambler was bought for £17,000 in November 2020 and is a two-time winner of the Ultima at the Cheltenham Festival and, now, a Grand National hero - just the third in Scotland's history.

He travelled supremely into the race and took over as long-time leader Mister Coffey folded, ending Nicky Henderson's latest bid for a win in this great race.

Corach Rambler powered away to The Elbow, got a bit weary in front, but ultimately finished two-and-a-quarter-lengths clear of Gavin Cromwell's Vanillier, with Gaillard Du Mesnil finishing in third ahead of last year's winner Noble Yeats and The Big Dog, as the Irish masses followed in the winner.

"You shouldn't get so attached to these beautiful creatures but you do", said Russell's partner and assistant trainer Peter Scudamore. "The fact he is safe and sound means more than winning. He's just a quite magical horse."

Fox has partnered him in each of his 13 starts and did not ride in the build-up to the famous race in a bid to be fit to ride in the National following a shoulder issue.

"He's an electric jumper and he's so intelligent. He was in front for a long time. but he won so easily. He's a marvellous horse," said the winning rider.

Corach Rambler is 20/1 to win again in 2024, while runner-up Vanillier is 25/1 to steal away the crown next spring.

Constitution Hill is without equal

The Aintree Hurdle on Thursday saw the brilliant Constitution Hill make the step up to two-and-a-half-miles without a problem, as he maintained his perfect sequence and made it seven wins in seven lifetime starts for Nicky Henderson and Nico de Boinville.

With no pace in the contest, Constitution Hill set off and made his own running, jumping big and bold at times under de Boinville before cruising home three-lengths in front of Sharjah.

This latest facile success, his farewell for this season, was followed by inevitable questions of what next for the Seven Barrows superstar

He's 4/6 to retain the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham next March, but trainer Henderson and owner Michael Buckley will be thinking long and hard about the prospect of going over fences next term.

It seems improbable that anything is going to arrive on the scene over hurdles that can engage Constitution Hill in a battle, far less go on and beat him.

The temptation is therefore going to be strong to head over fences, with the Gold Cup an ultimate aim, given he could become the first horse since Dawn Run to complete that famous Champion Hurdle/Gold Cup double in the Cotswolds.

All the options are open, with Constitution Hill 7/4 to win the Arkle next spring and as short as 6/1 for the Queen Mother Champion Chase.

Connections have suggested an upcoming schooling session over fences could reveal plenty more. Watch this space!

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Cheltenham Gold Cup: Aintree winners move up in the antepost

EXCLUSIVE: Lucinda Russell on Grand National hopeful Corach Rambler

Shishkin once more answers the questions

It's been an in-and-out season for Shishkin, but he once more answered the doubters in his Aintree Bowl win on Thursday.

So good at Ascot in February and so frustrating when second at Cheltenham in the Ryanair, this was the ultimate end-of-term report card moment for Shishkin.

He took on a trip in excess of three miles for the first time and when Aintree specialist Ahoy Senor went clear at the second last obstacle, it appeared Shishkin and De Boinville were in trouble.

They were some six lengths in arrears, but rallied strongly and were in control before the winning post for a much-welcomed success.

It means two wins from four outings this season for Shishkin and he has gone a long way to proving his stamina.

Henderson will be eyeing up the King George in December - a race Shishkin is now 5/1 to win on Boxing Day - while talk will inevitably also turn towards the Gold Cup at Cheltenham next spring.

It's a door that Shishkin has certainly now pushed open for himself. He remains quite lightly-raced, though of course time is against him and no ten-year-old has won the Blue Riband since Cool Dawn in 1998.

Shishkin has shown a liking for ripping up the perceived script and at 12/1 it would be a brave call now to disparage his potential 2024 Cheltenham Gold Cup credentials.

It is set to be a hot division next term. Galopin Des Champs is the sitting king and 6/4 to remain in situ for Willie Mullins, while Gerri Colombe was very impressive in his Mildmay Novices' Chase win at Aintree on Friday and has a bright future.

Gordon Elliott's rising star is now 8/1 second favourite for the Gold Cup next March.

Russell signs off - this time for good!

Jockey Davy Russell has retired from race riding and this time there aren't going to be any U-turns!

The two-time Grand National winner announced he was quitting in December, but returned within a month to deputise for the injured Jack Kennedy, answering the call from trainer Elliott.

He went to Cheltenham last month with a decent book of rides, but returned winless. At Aintree, Gerri Colombe and Irish Point provided the 43-year-old with a brace of Grade 1 successes to put the seal on his career.

He confirmed it was his final day as a rider before heading out in the National, where his partner Galvin was a faller at the first fence. Despite that, Russell was pleased with his lot and the memories of his career.

"My wife was very upset after Cheltenham," he said. "Her dad passed away recently and she stressed with me that I needed to get back in and not finish on the note that I finished on.

"Then Gordon jumped in as well. The two of them made it very comfortable for me.

"I was happy enough to finish after Cheltenham, I'm big enough to accept it. I'm lucky I can go back in the years and remember them.

"But this really puts a shine on the trophy. Aintree is a marvellous place and these big winners are hard to come by, so let's enjoy them while they are here."

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