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No shortage of candidates for each-way inspiration or lovely longshot

Seeyouatmidnight will be running in new colours at Aintree
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5.15 Aintree
Randox Health Grand National Handicap Chase | 4m2f74yds | ITV/RUK

I Just Know out to convince 

Sue Smith is chasing her second triumph in the world's greatest horserace with market springer I Just Know, who already has one Grand National win to his name, albeit in the North Yorkshire version at Catterick.

Auroras Encore was a 66-1 shot in 2013; I Just Know will be a much shorter price in 2018.

I Just Know is trying to give Sue Smith a second National triumph

"We only really started thinking about the National after Catterick as he won so easily there, but he's in good form and we're hopeful," said Smith.

National briefing: read about the leading contenders and their stories

"Like Auroras Encore, he has a very good attitude to racing, but all your best laid plans can go wrong when you get to the Grand National. He is only a young horse, so as long as he runs a good race and then comes home safe and sound we'll be happy."

Smith gained a second string to her bow when second reserve Delusionofgrandeur was added to the field following Vicente's scratching.

Captain Redbeard chases more loot 

Scotland has two chances of following up One For Arthur's triumph, with Seeyouatmidnight joined in the field by Captain Redbeard, who represents the Borders team of trainer Stuart Coltherd and his jockey son Sam.

Stuart Coltherd hoses down Captain Redbeard in the Borders sunshine.

"We're a family business and it would be mind-blowing if we could win," said Stuart Coltherd.

"My daughter Amy often rides the horse at home, although I was on him myself for his final piece of work. Sam seems quite relaxed now – although it could be a different story on the morning of the race!

"I could see the horse being right there at the finish. He likes soft ground and his form is good. The only thing in the back of my mind is will he stay, but you don't know unless you try."

Vieux Lion bidding to roar home

David Pipe is hoping that with greater age comes greater stamina as he tries again with Vieux Lion Rouge, previously seventh and sixth in the National.

It's spring, there are daffodils, it must be Grand National time: David Pipe and Vieux Lion Rouge relax after work

"He hasn't quite stayed the last couple of years but he's nine now and hopefully might stay this year," said Pipe.

"I've felt he's been in better form all season but he hasn't shown that on the track. He seems well and won't mind the ground conditions."

Is this a double Dutchman?

Last month Colin Tizzard fulfilled his life's dream. Now he seeks to follow up Native River's Cheltenham Gold Cup triumph by sending out The Dutchman to complete a twin peaks double not scaled since Fred Rimell in 1976 became only the third trainer to land both races in the season.

Colin Tizzard has already celebrated Gold Cup glory this season

"I wouldn't mind if I was the fourth," said Tizzard. "I don't want to tempt fate too much. It can happen, though."

It can, it has and maybe it will again with Harry Cobden's mount, who bled when pulled up last time but had previously won Haydock's Peter Marsh Chase, beating the reopposing Captain Redbeard by 13 lengths.

"He's had a lovely prep," added Tizzard. "I don't really know what it takes to win the Grand National but this horse has the right weight, he's a stayer and he has jumped around Haydock. He ticks all the boxes."

Age cannot wither Raz De Maree

Raz De Maree, one of three 13-year-olds in the line-up, will be running in the Grand National for the third time. Eighth in 2014, he unseated his rider at the first jumping of Becher's Brook 12 months ago when swerving to avoid a faller.

Gavin Cromwell with last year's Welsh National hero Raz De Maree
The veteran has this season already become the oldest winner of the Welsh National and has the assistance of Robbie Power, successful on Silver Birch in 2007.

Trainer Gavin Cromwell said: "He’s in great form and the rain will suit. The main concern is he might get outpaced if they go a good gallop early on."

Has Gas Line Boy enough in tank?

Gas Line Boy contests his third National and is fancied to go well having finished fifth in the race last year after falling at the first in 2015 when trained by Philip Hobbs.

His season has been built around a return visit and he enhanced his claims by winning the Grand Sefton Chase in December.

His trainer Ian Williams said: "He ran really well in the race last year and any reproduction of that performance and we'll be delighted. He goes in the ground too, it's just a question of whether he'll get the distance in the ground."

Milansbar and Frost a hot combo

This has already been a stunning season for Bryony Frost but it could reach incredible heights if she can win the Grand National on the Neil King-trained Milansbar, the horse she steered to success in Warwick's Classic Chase during deep winter.

Frost, whose father Jimmy, won on Little Polveir in 1989, said: "I've never ridden in the National and I've never ridden a National-winning horse, so I can't tell you what a National winner feels like.

"However, I know Milansbar is brave, he has tons of scope and he knows his limits. He knows when to go long and he knows when to be clever and go short. He also knows how to dodge a faller, which is important."

Seeking to sink Battleship record with Flyer

James Bowen will have the chance to become the youngest jockey to win the Grand National on Shantou Flyer.

At 17 years and 33 days, Bowen would beat the record held by Bruce Hobbs, who was aged 17 years and 88 days when he triumphed on Battleship in 1938.

Shantou Flyer is officially 4lb well in, having run a fast-finishing second in the Ultima Handicap Chase at Cheltenham, but the ground worries trainer Richard Hobson.

"He's in the form of his life and we're very much looking forward to running him, but it needs to stop raining," he said. "He's run in heavy conditions before but he's not the Red Marauder type."

Another National tale for Hemmings?

Bowen's older brother Sean Bowen also had his first ride in the National as a 17-year-old.

He has ridden in the race three times, completing each time, and will be trying to improve on his best finish of 11th on race debutant Warriors Tale.

Warriors Tale will also run in the colours of race fanatic Trevor Hemmings, who bought the horse after he was beaten a head in a photo-finish to the Sky Bet Chase in January.

"Warriors Tale is a nice horse who has run really well this season," said his trainer Paul Nicholls. "He's very fresh. If I'm honest he would need decent ground to get the trip."

Saint Are is no soft touch

At 12-years-old Saint Are will be having his fifth go at winning the Grand National, having already covered himself in glory by finishing second in 2015 and third 12 months ago.

Saint Are is an old hand at jumping the National fences

"He wouldn't want any more rain, so if it became very soft he wouldn't run," said trainer Tom George, who is hoping stumps do not need to be drawn.

"We've been training he old boy for the race all season. He's a lovely old horse, he loves the track and he's in great form.

Will ayes have it for Candidate or Spud?

Fergal O'Brien saddles two big outsiders in Perfect Candidate – pulled up before the fourth-last fence in 2017 – and former Midlands National hero Chase The Spud.

"Both have really solid form and neither would be a complete shock in the mould of a Norton's Coin Gold Cup win," said O'Brien.

"Perfect Candidate ran very well last year off a poor preparation – he's had a much better preparation this time. Chase The Spud is on a recovery mission after being pulled up the last twice. The National probably isn't the place to be going on a recovery mission but his previous runs were good."

Buywise one to check out

Prior to Buywise running in the 2016 Grand National owner Hywel Jones said the plan was for his popular enigma to jump through holes in the fences made by other horses.

Buywise has developed a sizeable fan club over the years

Buywise completed in 12th on that occasion, and although he has failed to win as many races as his talent suggests he should have, there was nothing wrong his victory in Sandown's veterans' final in January.

Trainer Evan Williams said: "Loads of people have said loads of things about Buywise, but I just wish I had a stable yard full of horses like him as he's a great horse to have had anything to do with. If he could get round in one piece I'd be delighted."

Lido can do more than shuffle

Three-time Grade 1-winning chaser Valseur Lido is a fourth Grand National runner for trainer Henry de Bromhead and a first ride in the race for Keith Donoghue.

The Gigginstown House Stud chaser has been below par this season, but his trainer said: "His last couple of runs were disappointing but he seems in good form. We’re hoping the National fences might ignite him and that he’ll show his true ability."

Houblon trying to be a Mome meme 

One year before springing a 100-1 shock in the Grand National Mon Mome finished a distant tenth in the race. This year his trainer Venetia Williams is represented by two runners, including Houblon Des Obeaux, whom she notes was a distant tenth 12 months ago.

"It would be nice if history repeated itself," she said. "He stayed on well last year and the ground is going to be more in his favour this time."

Venetia Williams won the 2009 Grand National with Mon Mome

It will also be more to the liking of last season's 17th Tenor Nivernais, who has been pulled up and finished last in two subsequent starts.

"He got jarred up in last year's race, which means he's been delayed this season," added Williams, whose yard has struck one of its purple patches with eight winners this week.

Over the moon with Pendra

Pendra finished 13th in the race two years ago and runs for the first time follwoing a wind operation after a down-the-field effort at Cheltenham.

Trainer Charlie Longsdon said: "The rain is not ideal. He loves the fences and if it was nice ground I think he'd have a bang each-way chance.

"Two years ago on soft ground he struggled to get home. He's had a wind operation, I'm putting a tongue strap on him and I've been over the moon with him. He's in great form but I'd love less rain."

Blackmore wants a red-letter day on Alpha 

Mouse Morris and Ryanair magnate Michael O'Leary combined to triumph with Rule The World two years ago and team up again with Alpha Des Obeaux, the mount of Rachael Blackmore, and reserve runner Thunder And Roses.

Rachael Blackmore has her first National ride on Alpha Des Obeaux

Alpha Des Obeaux, who has never won a chase over further than two and a half miles, is a first National ride for 29-year-old Blackmore, Ireland's champion conditional rider last season.

Aidan O'Brien's nephew JJ Slevin, the rider of Thunder And Roses, will also be making his debut in the race and chasing a National double, having won the Irish version aboard General Principle on Easter Monday.

Morris said: "Alpha Des Obeaux has won on different sorts of ground but is probably better when it’s less testing than it will be here. Thunder And Roses might be better suited by the conditions, as it will slow the others down."

Will Lough have the key for Kiely?

At 81 years of age John Kiely will get to experience having a Grand National runner for the first time thanks to dual Irish Gold Cup hero Carlingford Lough.

Kiely said: "It will be his first run over the National fences and if he takes to them he should run a good race."

Lord Windermere the third 

The 2014 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Lord Windermere has not won since that triumph and will be making his third National attempt, having been pulled up in 2015 before finishing a staying-on seventh 12 months ago. On his most recent encounter with the big fences he fell in December's Becher Chase.

Virgilio tries the spruce

Dan Skelton has trained far more winners this season than any of his British rivals but bookmakers believe his chance of winning the biggest race of all is slim, with Virgilio – running for the first time after a breathing operation – on offer at 100-1.

That said, Virgilio has already won three times at Aintree, although this will be his first experience of the spruce National fences.

Skelton, whose brother Harry takes the ride, said: "He's fine and has a good record around the Mildmay course here. He's a big price but it's the Grand National and anything could happen."

Beach boy Riches out to make a splash 

Road To Riches has finished third in the Cheltenham Gold Cup and been twice successful at Grade 1 level but still gained entry to this year's Grand National only as first reserve.

Trainer Noel Meade said: "We’ve been trying lots of things to try to rekindle him and we did a Red Rum with him for his last piece of work by galloping him on the beach."

Maggio has another chance

Maggio, another 13-year-old, finished tenth in 2015 but missed out in 2016 when failing to make the cut and again last year due to injury.

Brendan Powell will wear the Auroras Encore-winning colours aboard Maggio

The Paddy Griffin representative runs in the silks of owners Jim Beaumont and Douglas Pryde, successful with 66-1 shot Auroras Encore in 2013, while jockey Brendan Powell will be attempting to emulate his father, Brendan, who won on Rhyme 'n' Reason 30 years ago.

Powell said: "I’ve never ridden Maggio but he’s got some good form and a nice low weight. I’m looking foward to it."





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