Lion and Tiger can impose law of the jungle
I can't remember seeing a more eyecatching run in the Grand National with an eye to the following year since Hedgehunter fell at the last in 2004 before returning to run away with the big one 12 months later.
The horse in question was Blaklion, who jumped for fun over the National fences last April and was going so well three from home that he had even the normally unflappable Noel Fehily getting overexcited.
Fehily committed Blaklion for home at that point and he had opened up a clear lead at one point, but the horse had done too much too soon and he had no answer in the straight as One For Arthur and Cause Of Causes swept past.
Still, he kept on well enough to finish fourth, suggesting this marathon trip is well within his compass under a more patient ride, and crucially he finished far enough back not to ruin his handicap mark.
Running off 152 that day, Blaklion was well in having gone up for a fine effort in Haydock’s Grand National Trial after the publication of the weights, but he starts this season on a mark of 155 and that would do nicely if connections can mind him through to the weights launch again.
That run at Haydock, when he was beaten by handicap snip Vieux Lion Rouge - a blatant non-stayer in the National - but pulled miles clear of the rest, was one of a couple of other occasions when Blaklion looked like he had a major staying handicap in him.
The first time came in the Hennessy when he was again travelled notably well to the straight only to find little, but connections gave him a breathing operation after that and he certainly saw out his races well enough at Haydock and Aintree in the circumstances.
It will be a source of frustration that he didn’t win one last term, but all that will be forgotten if he can win the National and at 25-1 he looks a cracking bet.
The top of the market is packed with horses who may all be handicapped out of contention.
Last year’s runner-up Cause Of Causes will be significantly higher in the weights this year, while Minella Rocco and Our Duke may well have Grade 1 targets in mind and if all goes well on that front they could end up giving lumps away. The same goes for Native River and Definitly Red may have missed his chance given he was 10lb well in last year.
Gordon Elliott, who won this race with Silver Birch and went close to following up ten years on with Cause Of Causes, also faces a race against time to get Don Poli to the race after he suffered a setback this summer.
However, the trainer may still have bright prospects on several fronts, with Tiger Roll perhaps the best of his team. This horse has an enticing combination of class and stamina given he has a Triumph Hurdle and a National Hunt Chase in his locker, while he also seems well suited to big fields. He's worth chancing at 50-1.
Ucello Conti, who caught the eye with a good run in the Becher over these fences and was going well in the big one when departing, and Noble Endeavor, who looks just the type to be laid out for the race, are others who give Elliott a strong hand.
Extract from the RFO Jumps Guide 2017-18, available to buy now at racingpost.com/shop