Nicholls uses tried and tested formula in bid for back-to-back wins
Coral Scottish Grand National Handicap Chase (Grade 3) (Class 1) 3m7f176y | 5yo+ | ITV
Last year Paul Nicholls won this with a novice rated 146 who had finished fifth in the four-miler at Cheltenham.
This year among his three runners is Arpege D'Alene, a 145-rated novice who finished fourth in that festival four-miler, and this has been the long-term plan.
The fly in the ointment could be last year's winner Vicente, who is back down to the mark from which he won last year and is the choice of Nicholls' stable jockey Sam Twiston-Davies.
A one-two, and the accompanying £168,388 in win and place prize-money, is just about the defending champion trainer's only chance of forcing his way back into this year's championship race, although title leader Nicky Henderson is well represented himself with three novices.
Just twice in the last ten years has more than 10st 9lb been carried to victory, and never more than 11st 3lb. Seven of the last ten winners have carried 10st 4lb or less.
Two horses placed in the National Hunt Chase have won this in the last decade, while last year's winner Vicente was fifth. Missed Approach was second in the race this year, with Arpege D'Alene in fourth.
What they say
Warren Greatrex, trainer of Missed Approach
He ran a great race at Cheltenham and is in really good form. He carries top weight, which isn't ideal, but it essentially means he's the best horse in the race. It's a good race for novices and I'm very much looking forward to running him. Leighton's [Aspell] brilliant in these sort of races, so that's a big plus, and they got on well at Lingfield earlier this season.
Paul Nicholls, trainer of Vivaldi Collonges, Vicente and Arpege D'Alene
Arpege D'Alene has followed the same route Vicente took last year, he ran well in the four-miler and I've always had this race in mind for him. I've always thought it'd be a great race for him as he stays well; he just needs to be a bit sharper and more fluent with his jumping. Vicente won it last year and is back to a decent mark – and he didn't go very far at Aintree so that's a plus. He's in good shape. Vivaldi Collonges has an impossible task at the weights.
Stuart Crawford, trainer of Fine Rightly
We're hoping he's coming back into form. Ideally we'd like softer ground, but as long as it's safe he'll take his chance. His last two runs were disappointing and there might have been a bit of a virus hanging over him which accounted for those performances. Last time at Kelso he looked as if he was going to win well but he didn't get home. It was probably the lowest-rated race he's run in over the past two years, so there had to be something amiss.
Philip Hobbs, trainer of Kruzhlinin
This has been the plan. He's run in the National a couple of times and it hasn’t really worked so we've been aiming for this. He seems in good form and I hope he's a relatively fresh horse. I hope they don’t catch too much rain because I think he prefers better ground.
Sandy Thomson, trainer of Seldom Inn
I've always thought he'd stay this far, so that's not an issue. He's gone up 10lb and that's probably plenty to be given. If he can get into a rhythm I think he's got a great chance. Here's hoping.
Neil Mulholland, trainer of Southfield Royale
It was early on when he fell at Cheltenham and, fingers crossed, the track should suit and he seems in good order. We’re happy with his preparation and would be hopeful he can be involved at the business end. He ran well in the four-miler last year and is now a year stronger.
Nicky Henderson, trainer of Premier Bond, Lessons In Milan and Sugar Baron
They're novices and all came out of the Kim Muir, where they all ran respectable races. We've put various aids on them: Sugar Baron has cheekpieces; there's a tongue tie on Premier Bond, we’re going for it. We have never won a Grand National of any description and I don’t suppose this will be the day for it to change, but you never know if you don’t try.
Sue Smith, trainer of Straidnahanna, Vintage Clouds and Blakemount
All our horses have been in good form this season and we've just arrived up here and the ground seems nice. We're quite hopeful they will all run nice races as they all stay the trip.
Nigel Twiston-Davies, trainer of Benbens and Cogry
They're both good stayers and I'm looking forward to running them. Benbens was pulled up on his first start back from over a year off but he was third in this two years ago, while Cogry has placed in a Midlands National.
Evan Williams, trainer of Firebird Flyer
He had a confidence-booster over hurdles last time, which he badly needed because he'd been seriously out of form. I don’t know how he'll get on but the trip will suit him.
Mark Walford, trainer of Trustan Times
We were pleased with him at Kelso last time as the trip was on the sharp side for him but he still travelled really nicely and showed a bit of his old form. We've had a good run with him from there, we're not confident but I'd say we're hopeful of a good run.
Paddy Griffin, trainer of Portrait King and Man With Van
Portrait King ran very well when third in the Topham and we're hoping he can run the same sort of race again. The extra distance will suit and so should the ground. Man With Van is having just his second run for us and we're just hoping he runs well.
Fergal O'Brien, trainer of Alvarado
He's in good form and was second there last year. This has been the plan for a while so fingers crossed he can go and run another good race.
David Pipe, trainer of Gone Too Far and Father Edward
They're at the right end of the weights. Father Edward has been running well of late, and they'll both appreciate the better ground.