Any race ran over the big Grand National fences is a spectacle and this race looks very competitive. There are a few horses that have won this race before and a lot of interesting new recruits to these obstacles taking their chances.
Blaklion won this race twelve months ago, after having the benefit of a run, with Highland Lodge, Federici and Vieux Lion Rouge all behind. He was second in the Grand National Trial at Haydock after that but was brought down in the actual race at the first. Vieux Lion Rouge finished ninth in the end. David Pipe’s horse has also won this race before in 2016. He won the 2016 Grand National Trial after that off a mark of 146. He was beaten a long way on all his starts last season and normally goes well off a break.
James Moffat has two runners who are both coming here off a large lay off. Just A Par hasn’t been seen for 588 days and used to be with Paul Nicholls. He finished fourteenth in the 2017 Grand National with Blaklion and Vieux Lion Rouge ahead of him and then was well beaten in the Bet365 Gold Cup with Present Man pulled up. He has ran twice over the National Fences and not done very well. The trainer also has Highland Lodge. He was third in this race last year but was pulled up in the Peter March in January along with Walk In The Mill. Fitness could be an issue with this pair.
Gordon Elliot has won the Grand National twice with Silver Birch and Tiger Roll. Both of his runners have long absences of over 600 days to overcome. Don Poli has top weight as he is rated 160 and is a very classy horse. He won the 2015 RSA Chase and Lexus Chase in 2015 but hasn’t won since. He has finished third in two Gold Cups and is an interesting recruit to the Grand National obstacles. It seems as though connections want a confidence boosting round for him to prepare him for the Grand National in April. Fitness may be an issue. Elliot’s other runner is Noble Endeavor and he hasn’t won since December 2016. That win was in a Grade B handicap Chase over three miles and since then he has ran twice when finishing third in the 2017 Ultima Handicap Chase and sixth in the Irish Grand National. Similarly, fitness is an issue but he will stay.
Other Irish challengers are Dare To Endeavour, Call It Magic and Fine Theatre. The former unseated in this race in 2016 but was second to Highland Lodge in 2015. He hadn’t won since 2014 when he was in training with Tom George and will need to step up. Fine Theatre goes off the same weight and he also hasn’t won for quite a while. He wasn’t beaten all that far off this mark and has ha the benefit of a recent run. Call It Magic has been well beaten in to races over the summer but stays this trip and if he has a clear round, he could go close.
Ultragold’s trainer Colin Tizzard won the feature race of last weekend, the Ladbrokes Trophy, with Sizing Tennessee and the team will be hoping this horse can make it a big race double with this son of Kapgarde. He has won the Topham twice over these obstacles in April and was given a nice warm up task for this over hurdles at the end of October. The only issue with his chances in my opinion is his stamina. He has placed over three miles before but is yet to step up to this trip. Connections obviously think he will stay or they probably wouldn’t have ran him in this, he’d have ran in the Grand Sefton later in the card. BALLYOPTIC is my other fancy. He showed he had stamina in abundance when beaten just a nose in the Scottish Grand National. He is a Grade One winning hurdler over three miles and, if taking to the obstacles and his jumping improves, he has to be a leading contender.
Regal Flow scored impressively in the Midlands National last season but got put up a lot for that. He was behind Ballyoptic in the Scottish National and has had two runs this season where he has been beaten a long way also. He has a nice weight, confirmed stamina and goes on any ground so he’s likely to out-run his odds. Missed Approach’s jockey Sam Waley-Cohen knows how to win over these obstacles. The horse won the Kim Muir at Cheltenham and stays very well. He was pulled up last time out with Present Man ahead and Blaklion also pulled up. He doesn’t often make winning reappearances so that’s a worry. Present Man ran well to win the Badger Ales at Wincanton last month and was third over three miles four on his final start of last season. He goes off a career high mark.
Walk In The Mill put up a good run on his reappearance to be a decent third. He has only tried this trip once and was pulled up but that was on very heavy ground so there is a possibility he’ll stay but his chances would be more appealing if this was over shorter. Crosshue Boy won a Novice Championship Handicap Chase at Ayr in April on good ground, beating the Ladbrokes Trophy third Dingo Dollar. He was well beaten on his reappearance by he’ll come on from that and if he can return to the form he showed in the spring, he’ll be bang there under Grand National winning jockey David Mullins.
Mustmeetalady and Federici are two of the outsiders. The former won a handicap Chase this time last year and has won over three miles four furlongs in the past. He would prefer good ground but I could see him out running his odds if he takes to the fences. was fourth over these obstacles in this race last year. He stays this trip as he won over three miles four when trained by Edna Bolger. He is one pound higher than this time last year but will prefer the ground conditions in this to then.