Wearside stars under starter’s orders for Grand National

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RUNNERS and riders were hoping charity will be the big winner from today’s Grand National.

 These famous Wearside faces have been keeping their fingers crossed that their trusty steeds would make it first past the post.

 The event was due to take place at Aintree Racecourse at 4.15pm today and bookmaker William Hill offered £50 bets for five well-known locals ahead of the big race.

 Should any of the bets come off, the winnings will go to a worthy cause.

 If no one wins, Steven White, of William Hill, is letting £100 go to a charity of the Echo’s choosing.

 Sunderland agony aunt and This Morning star Denise Robertson appropriately tipped Character Building as the winning horse.

 Should she claim the prize, her winnings will go to St Benedict’s Hospice, in Monkwearmouth, of which she is president.

 Celebrity chef Stacie Stewart went for outside shot Hello Bud, which is currently priced at 25/1.

Help for Heroes is her chosen charity.

 Brassed Off actress Melanie Hill has stayed with the thespian theme and put her money on Oscar Time.

 “I saw it and thought I’ve got to go for that,” said Melanie.

 The Candy Cabs star says any winnings will go to the St Thomas’ Lupus Trust.

 Washington and Sunderland West MP Sharon Hodgson went for Ballabriggs, trained by Donald McCain – son of Ginger McCain, who won the National a record three times with Red Rum – and ridden by Jason Maguire.

 Sharon has nominated the Grace House Children’s Hospice Appeal to benefit from the bet should Ballabriggs win.

 She said: “Work may be under way, but Grace House still needs every penny to be able to provide a much-needed service for terminally-ill children and their parents and carers across Sunderland and the North East.

 “Fingers crossed Ballabriggs comes in for them today.”

 Black Cats legend Gary Rowell is hoping to give Seaham charity Five Helping Hands a boost by backing 11/1 shot What A Friend.

 Gary said: “It’s (Manchester United manager) Sir Alex Ferguson’s horse and he’s trying to win everything in football this season so he might as well win that too.”

 “Hopefully if I win I can put some money to the charity.”