Twiston-Davies's 'Red Rum' Blaklion will carry the highest hopes in National
Nigel Twiston-Davies has likened his Randox Health Grand National favourite Blaklion to Aintree great Red Rum in terms of his style of jumping and made it clear he has high hopes for the nine-year-old despite his finishing only fourth last year.
Twiston-Davies, who on Tuesday ruled out Betfair Chase winner Bristol De Mai but still hopes to be three-handed in the £1 million Grand National on April 14, said: "I might be being a bit silly but he reminds me a bit of Red Rum. He's small and very neat over his fences if you watch him jump around there.
"The twice he's been round Aintree he doesn't seem to have made a mistake. He's quite agile, and good at getting around horses who fall.
"He's a clever little horse, and a more natural Aintree type than my two winners as Earth Summit was a good old slogger and Bindaree was a very talented horse who didn't try very hard."
Weights were revealed on Tuesday night, with 10-1 favourite Blaklion allotted 11st 6lb, placing him sixth in a list headed by Definitly Red.
Asked about the stiffer task Blaklion faces, having taken a steep rise since impressing in the Becher Chase, Twiston-Davies had no complaints.
He said: "It would have helped if they had compressed the weights as usual, but it's not a huge weight range these days and Red Rum won with 12st. Quite a lot of horses, like Neptune Collonges and Many Clouds more recently, have won with big weights too."
He added: "Blaklion will be ridden differently. I don't think stamina is an issue. He kicked on a mile out last year and was beaten only eight lengths. There's no blame on Noel [Fehily], but if he didn't kick on that early maybe that eight lengths could be found."
Twiston-Davies has not entirely ruled out running first in the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup, but said: "The Gold Cup is very tempting but we'll probably go straight to the National after Haydock on Saturday.
"We've got the Becher in the bag, and races in the bag are better than prayers. He could get struck by lightning next week."
As for his other entries, he said: "Bristol De Mai isn't running. The owners have decided they don't want to, but they say they definitely might have a go next year. His Aintree target is the Betway Bowl.
"Flying Angel has had a wind operation. His next run will be at Aintree, but in what race I don't know. Cogry and Splash Of Ginge won't get in, but Double Ross jumped beautifully there last time he went until the saddle slipped."
Jonjo O'Neill, who won the National with Don't Push it in 2010, has last year's Gold Cup second Minella Rocco and Go Conquer, and both could run.
He said: "Minella Rocco will go for the Gold Cup first and we'll see what happens. You'd think he would make a decent National horse but he's been a bit disappointing really and is not as economical as you would like. He's good when he's good, but you need a bit more consistency for the National.
"I wouldn't know if Go Conquer would get the trip, I'm just training him to win whatever comes up. He's in at Ascot on Saturday, but if it's too soft to run there he would probably go to Cheltenham. Both horses want good ground really."
Gordon Elliott nominated last year's National second Cause Of Causes, plus Ucello Conti, Noble Endeavor and Tiger Roll as his most likely runners. Bless The Wings could also run if he makes the cut.
Elliott said: "You’d have to imagine Cause Of Causes is the principal one. He looks like he has a lovely weight again and I thought he ran well on his first run back. He seems to come alive in the spring and I’d imagine he'll go the cross-country route at Cheltenham.
"Noble Endeavor will have one run over fences in Ireland then go for the National. Ucello Conti will go straight for the race and Tiger Roll will probably run in the cross-country."
With regard to multiple Grade 1 winner Outlander, whom Gigginstown boss Michael O'Leary ruled out 12 months ago in a storm over handicapper Phil Smith's treatment of his horses, Elliott said: "I wouldn't want to second-guess Michael O'Leary, but although Outlander has an entry if I were a betting man I'd say he was more likely to wait for the Punchestown Gold Cup."
On handicapping, he added: "Whatever the handicapper does I'm very happy. I don't have a problem with the Irish or English handicapper. I just smile and keep kicking."
Ladbrokes Trophy winner Total Recall, allotted 11st 1lb, is much the shortest-priced of Willie Mullins' ten entries.
Patrick Mullins, representing his father, said: "It'll be hard for him with more than 11st, but he has an improving profile which makes him very interesting. He's a fantastic jumper, he handles big handicaps, and he should stay. But it'll be hard to win two big handicaps in one season.
"He's entered in the Gold Cup but his Newbury form leaves him a bit to find. The Bobbyjo Chase is the other option."
Mullins reported the classy Bellshill back in full training, but pointed out he has had only four runs over fences and fell in one of them. However, he said: "Bellshill does have a nice rating and I think he has a handicap in him off that mark."
Pleasant Company is another interesting one from the stable, and Mullins said: "He was running a good race last year until he made a bad mistake at Valentine's. He's been very disappointing this year, but I do think he's a spring-ground horse.
"He's going to have to rediscover his form from last year and he's been given an extra 3lb compared to his Irish rating, but there's nothing we can do about that. The handicapper does his job and we've got to work around it."
Polidam, he said, is another possibility and has "a very eye-catching weight" [10st 5lb], although the trip would be an unknown.
The unveiling of the weights, which took place at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts in Piccadilly, London, was disrupted by a power outage that affected the local area.
Sky Bet, meanwhile, have gone non-runner no bet, best odds guaranteed and are paying five places on all each-way bets.
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