Pointers for punters as Blaklion bids to burnish National claims
Betfred Grand National Trial Handicap Chase | G3 | 3m4½f | ITV4/RUK
Blaklion, the Randox Health Grand National favourite, has made a speciality of going off at short prices in his recent career but punters should perhaps tread warily as only two market leaders have obliged in the past ten years in this marathon.
At around 5-2, last year's runner-up is half the price of any previous favourites in the Aintree warm-up but has form in carrying punters' cash to victory, having been backed into 7-4 when putting up an impressive display in the Becher Chase in December.
Ridden by Gavin Sheehan that day, the 10-1 Grand National favourite is reunited with Sam Twiston-Davies and won't have any problem stepping up two furlongs to an extended 3m4f this time around as he finished fourth in the Randox Health-sponsored Liverpool showpiece a year ago.
Demanding ground was no issue for the nine-year-old last time and he looks sure to encounter similar conditions just up the road at Haydock.
Trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies, who was likening his runner to the legendary Red Rum earlier this week, said: "Blaklion was second in the race last year and the winner isn't in it this time. There might be something thrown in, but you would have to be very hopeful.
"We'll find out here whether we are well weighted or badly weighted in the National. Let's hope we win with our head in our chest. If we don't we'll blame Phil Smith!
"He's also still in the Gold Cup, which is tempting, but we will probably not go to Cheltenham next month. I am not ruling it out – we will just have to see what happens."
The Dutchman may be tilting at windmills
The Dutchman has an extra three furlongs to cover for the first time as the furthest he has ever gone before was the 3m 1½f of the Peter Marsh Chase, which he won in impressive fashion at the track last month.
Trainer Colin Tizzard has his first runner in the race - and is not wasting a bullet as he reckons he could have his first live Grand National hope on his hands in the shape of the improving eight-year-old.
Tizzard said: "He wasn't stopping at the end of the Peter Marsh so you would have to be hopeful of him staying and he could be our first ever serious National horse. He's up 13lb so he'll have to run better but he's in good shape and won't mind the ground."
Three for Three?
Also in the mix for the Grand National is the Philip Hobbs-trained Three Faces West who has two previous course wins to his name.
The lightly-raced ten-year-old returned to action after an 11-month layoff when trying to make all before finishing third to Perfect Candidate over this sort of trip in a Grade 3 Chase at Cheltenham in November.
A faller when in the lead in the Tommy Whittle Chase at the track in December, he has done plenty of schooling at home since.
Jason Maguire, racing manager for owners Paul and Clare Rooney, said: "Three Faces West is in good form at home and Philip Hobbs and his team seem very happy with him. He's won on soft and heavy ground before so that won't be too much of a worry for him and we're hopeful over this distance.
"Conditions look like they'll be very testing. He's entered in the Grand National and running at Aintree is definitely something we are considering."
Wild West Wind must bounce back from Welsh fall
Wild West Wind has already won the Welsh Grand National Trial this winter and is out to win the English equivalent but does so on a recovery mission after falling at Chepstow last time.
Tom George's hope departed on the second circuit of the Welsh National when in contention but has done plenty of schooling at George's Slad establishment to iron out any jumping issues.
George said: "That was an uncharacteristic fall at Chepstow as Wild West Wind is usually a very solid jumper. He's in the National and we'll see how he gets on but I'm looking forward to the race."
What the others say
Paul Nicholls, trainer of Silsol
He hadn’t been over fences for a long while and ran very well that day. He jumped well and it’s bound to have sharpened him up a bit. He loves Haydock and he loves the ground. It was a nice run at Chepstow and if he takes that improvement forward I think he’s got a great chance.
Dan Skelton, trainer of Sir Mangan
I was really happy with him last time out at Warwick until about six to jump and then he gave a very moderate run. That was the first moderate run we've ever had from him and I can’t really shed any light on it. Before that, I was very happy with him. We’re not on a recovery mission or anything like that because it’s only been one bad run - if you draw a line through Warwick, I’d really fancy him for this at 10st3lb.
Michael Scudamore, trainer of Mysteree
He's won round there before so the softer the better for him. It's very competitive but he has no weight on his back which will help and he's been fine since his comeback run at Chepstow.
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