Red all the rage on Grand National day

Pirate IRWIN
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Racegoers study the form before placing bets on the first race of the final day of the Grand National Festival meeting at Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool, northwest England on April 8, 2017

On the 30th anniversary of Red Rum's historic third Grand National victory two horses with red in their name battled to be favourite for the world's greatest steeplechase on Saturday.

Definitly Red and Vieux Lion Rouge were neck and neck in the early morning betting ahead of the 38 other runners in the world's most famous steeplechase.

The four and a quarter mile marathon is due off at 1615 GMT at Aintree racecourse near Liverpool, a city where for at least half of it red is the only colour.

While the jockeys and their mounts face a formidable challenge over the National's famed fences the tens of thousands of people hoping to attend faced a challenge of their own with the local rail service going ahead with their strike action.

Definitly Red's jockey Danny Cook has been ordered by the horse's trainer Brian Ellison "to keep calm".

That is advice the 24-year-old will do well to heed as he faces a life-changing moment should he win -- a far more positive one than when he tested positive for cocaine in 2015.

Cook -- who became entranced by the sport when he came to the 1999 National won by Bobbyjo -- admits he fell in with the wrong crowd when he was young and concedes he was a "toerag".

Having chosen becoming a jockey to serving in the Army -- "Getting shot at didn't appeal to me" he told The Times on Saturday -- he sat out six months after failing the dope test which he admits was a "massive error of judgement".

If he wins on Saturday he says he will find it impossible to suppress his emotions.

"I'm going to take my goggles off and throw them into the crowd because it's the only thing I've ever wanted to do," the English jockey told The Times.

Should Vieux Lion Rouge prevail it would see jockey Tom Scudamore emulate his grandfather Michael who won on Oxo in 1959 and achieve something his father, multi-times champion jockey Peter, failed to do.

Scudamore senior though could upset his 34-year-old son's dreams as his companion, trainer Lucinda Russell, has a live contender in One For Arthur.

Success for Russell's runner would give Scotland only their second win in the race after Rubstic's victory in 1979.

Katie Walsh meanwhile is hoping to become the first woman to ride the winner after being passed fit by the doctor to ride Wonderful Charm after injuring her arm in a fall at Aintree on Thursday.

While Russell and Walsh are seeking to sample their first success in the great race those who have already done so are hungry for more.

Irish billionaire JP McManus -- who provided riding legend AP McCoy his one and only success in 2010 with Don't Push It -- has several live chances including Regal Encore ridden by Cheltenham Gold Cup winning jockey Robbie Power, victorious 10 years ago on Silver Birch.

The Thompson family -- who famously bought 1992 winner Party Politics on the eve of the race -- have invested heavily.

They have purchased Le Mercurey and Highland Lodge, who would give jockey Henry Brooke a fairytale win after a crashing fall saw him placed in an induced coma earlier this year, while their son Richard has bought Just A Par.

"There is a bit of family competition," the Thompson's racing manager Chris Richardson told The Times.

"The success of the Grand National is something people dream about."