Always Waining (purple silks) has won three times over the National fencesPICTURE: Patrick McCann (racingpost.com/photos)
Topham regular Always Waining National-bound
ALWAYS WAINING, who has won the Topham Chase for the last three years and is ante-post favourite to make it an unprecedented four-timer, will not run in the race he has made his own and will instead bid to translate his form over the fences in the biggest race of the year providing the ground is not too testing.
A John Smith's Grand National bid was mooted last year, but Always Waining failed to make it into the final field. However, that is not a problem this year, with his mark of 143 enough to see him 25th on the list and guaranteed a run.
Should Imperial Commander take his chance, Always Waining would carry 10st 10lb.
Trainer Peter Bowen said: "He worked well this morning and he scoped clean afterwards. He's in good form and I'm hoping we'll get good ground for him.
"We don't know if he'll stay the trip but he never seems to be stopping at the end of the Topham and he ran well over 3m2f in the Becher Chase on heavy ground, which didn't suit him at all."
If the ground did come up testing, Always Waining would switch to the Topham although, ground permitting, the National is Bowen's favoured option.
Always Waining's first Topham success came in 2010, by 12 lengths from Scotsirish off a mark of 128. Success the following year came off 133 by four lengths from Mon Perrain, while last year he beat Chance Du Roy over the 2m5½f by four and a half lengths off a mark of 138.
The three wins represent the last three wins of Always Waining's career, whose form figures including his first win at Aintree read: 1006704184409178.
Another confirmed for the race was the Paul Nolan-trained Joncol. A dual Grade 1 winner, he carries 3lb more than Always Waining and Nolan said: "The plan is still to go and we're not going to make any excuses about ground any more. At this stage of his career we're just going to go for it.
"Our first runner in the Grand National was Colonel Rayburn and while he might not be quite as tall he's definitely heavier. He's a Party Politics type and hopefully he can run half as well as he did."
The going at Aintree on Thursday was good to soft on the National course, good to soft, good in places on the hurdles course and good, good to soft in places on the Mildmay course, with clerk of the course Andrew Tulloch expecting the going to be much the same for the start of next week's three-day meeting.
"It's forecast to get fractionally warmer but only as high as 6 or 7C. We're largely dry on the forecast but it's pretty cold," he said.