Last year’s Grand National winner Neptune Collonges brought smiles to the faces of many this morning (5 April) as he visited Alder Hey Children’s Hospital with former trainer Paul Nicholls.

Nicholls tweeted after leaving the hospital in Liverpool: “Very humbling experience. Kids loved him.”

John Hales, owner of “Nipper”, has been trying to set the visit up for a while and is a strong supporter of the cause.

“I am pleased to say that we are very much keeping our connection with Liverpool, because Neptune is now parading for charity for Alder Hey Hospital,” said Mr Hales.

Alder Hey’s IMAGINE appeal, raising money for hospital facilities, is the official charity of the John Smith’s Grand National and jockeys have for several years made an annual pre-festival visit to the hospital.

The charity’s patrons AP McCoy and Mick Fitzgerald led the visit to the children’s hospital cancer unit to meet patients and parents.

Mr Fitzgerald said: “When I was riding, I found the visit particularly humbling — seeing what the patients and their families were going through put a real perspective on things and made me realise there was more to life than racing.”

Neptune Collonges was retired after beating Sunnyhillboy by a nose in last year’s National.

He has made several public appearances for his fans and taken up dressage, ridden by Mr Hales’ daughter Lisa.

He won his very first intro test at Kingswood EC in Albrighton with a glowing 79.57%.