1. Alpha Des Obeaux
Fell at The Chair when tried over these fences in the 2018 National on his final run for Mouse Morris and has been a model of consistency since joining Gordon Elliott at the start of last season, often running respectably in Irish Grade 2s & 3s.
Also proved he can perform under top weights in leading handicaps when runner up in Thyestes and warmed up for this nicely enough when third in the Ladbrokes Champion Chase at Down Royal last month.
It’s a big ask to win this off 159, but he could be capable of that and I see more positives than negatives regarding Alpha Des Obeaux’s chances.
Bounced back from a non-event of a campaign last season to win a good handicap at Chepstow and the Charlie Hall on his first two outings this term.
Earned a crack at the Betfair with those two performances, though was readily outclassed at the top table and the drop back into calmer waters here.
Arguably would need to match his best form to win this from a mark of 159, and hasn’t completed in two prior tries over the National but goes into this in good heart and can’t be ruled out.
3. Definitely Red
Didn’t make it too far when his rider lost his irons in the 2017 National, so not much can be read into his only prior effort over the big fences.
Has probably been slightly below par over the past few months; excuses could be made when outspeeded by Captain Redbeard in a match race at Kelso and was outclassed in the Punchestown Gold Cup, though his reappearance in the Charlie Hall looked a winnable opportunity and he was never a threat.
Has won on this card for the past two seasons in taking back to back renewals of the Many Clouds Chase, which would’ve been another option for connections, so it’s interesting enough that he’s running in this instead- though it makes sense given that his long term target this season appears to be the National again.
On the balance, he’d be one I’d leave alone at this stage, though it wouldn’t be a huge surprise for him to bounce back to form.
4. Le Breuil
Mainly campaigned as a two-and-half-miler prior to last season’s Cheltenham Festival, where he showed that stamina was his strong suit in outbattling Discorama to prevail in a gruelling National Hunt Chase. Showcased all the tenacious attributes that make him such a likeable horse that day, and he looked well in need of his seasonal return at Wetherby last time out.
Even though that race wouldn’t have been right up his street, I’m not a fan of backing horses directly off the back of pulled up efforts without obvious excuses, and though one can argue his lack of fitness is a good enough reason to expect him to substantially build upon that, it’s something that has to be taken entirely on trust.
Jumps like a horse who will like Aintree, but this looks a really tough ask from a career high mark, so he’s not for me in this.
5. One For Arthur
Stayed on into 5th in this race in the 16/17 season before famously going on to claim that season’s National, and has travelled eyecatchingly well on both completed starts since when sixth in the National last year and on his seasonal reappearance at Kelso.
The only minor negative is that he looked like this trip was on the short side for him three years ago, and his two highest profile wins came over further, but he’s clearly still in good heart and has to hold a leading chance.
6. Vintage Clouds
Good placed record in big handicaps, including the Welsh National, Scottish National and twice in the Ultima at Festival, though hasn’t ever particularly threatened to win one, partly due to his tendency to make mistakes and find himself further back in the field than ideal.
Never a horse I’ve been as convinced by as other people seem to be and was flat at Kelso last time out, though on paper, this looks like the sort of race he should be capable of going well in and he’s not one I’d rule out, for all that he didn’t get any further than the first when attempting them in the National last season.
7. Vieux Lion Rouge
Will be having his 8th career start over the National fences, and has completed on every single occasion, which is testament to this horse’s sound jumping and straightforward attitude. His record in this reads better than it does in the big one in April, having taken this back in 2016, as well as finishing runner up last season.
He made a pleasing seasonal reappearance as well when taking a veterans’ chase at Chepstow, and though the return to hurdles last time out didn’t pay dividends, he’s a hard horse to knock in this race and looks likely to go well again.
8. Mulcahys Hill
Second-season novice who gained his maiden victory over the larger obstacles when beating Wholestone at Cheltenham in October, which was a pleasing return to form from a horse who had looked completely wrecked last season- something trainer Warren Greatrex attributed to his hard race in the Challow as a novice hurdler.
It was great to see a previously promising animal bounce back to form after a tough year and he’s probably the likeliest in the lineup to have the most amount of juice in his mark but personally, I tend to prefer a more experienced sort of animal in this race, (old lads such as Hello Bud and Highland Lodge having taken it in this last decade), and that would be where my worry with Mulcahys Hill would lie.
For all that he’s unexposed, he’s up against some proper battle hardened types, and with his trainer having noted his fragility in the past, he wouldn’t be on my shortlist after what looked a tough enough race last time.
9. As De Mee
Previous winner over these fences in the Grand Sefton of 2016 and has twice ran reasonably well in the Topham, though he did come down in last season’s Becher.
Steadily dropped to a mark that is 1lb below his last winning one and undoubtedly gets this trip better nowadays than he had done as younger horse, where he had looked like a suspect stayer over three miles.
That being said, he didn’t pull up any trees on his pipe opener over hurdles, and though you’d expect to see an improved performance here, he’s not one I’m particularly convinced by.
Bought with the Grand National in mind out of Ellmarie Holden’s yard by Dr Richard Newland two years ago, but injury has scuppered plans to run in the big one for the past two seasons.
Has been in good form on the other side of the Irish Sea- he’d won the Leinster National and finished third in the Irish National on his last two chase starts for Holden and continued in good form for Dr Newland, winning on stable debut in a Pertemps Qualifier here last October.
Not shown as much in three starts since and was down the field on his return in a veterans’ chase, though he looked for a while like he was tailor made for Aintree and it will be interesting to see how he fares on his belated first attempt at the big obstacles. Now an 11-year-old, the question has to be whether the boat has been missed with him.
11. Walk In The Mill
Professional, straightforward animal who showed a real aptitude for the big Aintree fences when taking this race last season.
He also produced another outstanding effort here when faring best of the domestic runners in the National, coming home in fourth. He was flat on his reappearance in the Badger Beers Chase but this is likely to be a much more important assignment for him, and given his course form is so good, can’t be ruled out from a mark only 4lb higher than last year’s winning one.
Won the Staffordshire Plate at Uttoxeter in summer 2018 and made a winning reappearance from over a year off in a four runner race on the Mildmay course here in August.
Down the field in the Desert Orchid on his only completed start since and this is a much more competitive affair than the ones he’s been winning.
Wouldn’t be for me.
13. Wandrin Star
Produced a career best when pouncing late to take Wincanton’s Desert Orchid Chase last time, and though his overall level of form prior to that suggests he might be out of his depth in this company, he’s only been put up 4lbs for taking what I felt was a decent enough event for the grade.
Probably needs a touch more improvement to take this, but the trip will suit him perfectly and he might be underestimated at 20s.
14. Like The Sound
Won the Somerset National at Wincanton in January and again over 3m4f at Taunton on his last chase start in March.
Didn’t beat a runner home over hurdles on his seasonal debut, and though you’d expect this test to be more up his street, he’s yet to run in any company higher than Class 3 level and therefore could be vulnerable in a race containing some proper Graded performers.
He’ll need a clear career best to win this off a career high mark of 139.
Had been running quite well last season with placed efforts in both the Mandarin Chase and the Peter Marsh, before he was caught out by the step up to a marathon distance in the Midlands National.
This race should be more suitable and the market underestimates him at 20s, he’s a pretty solid operator at this sort of level- (won the Masters Chase at Sandown in 2018), and prior to race where the trip looked the biggest problem, he’d been in good form.
Doesn’t look like the handicapper has him in his grip and I’d consider him a leading contender, even at such a big price.
At his best over extreme distances- he won the Eider in 2017 and was runner up in that race last season.
Dropped to a trip shorter than three and a half miles for the first time in over three and a half years at Kelso last time out and was tidy enough in victory, with One For Arthur and Vintage Clouds in behind.
Now up 5lb to a career high mark of 138, and though that’s deserved with the way he’s been running, the worry would be whether he’s quick enough over this sharp a trip- the majority of his best form is over absolute marathon distances, and he’s up against some Graded quality rivals here. Not ruled out of plugging on into a place, though.
17. Kimberlite Candy
Mudlark who won on heavy ground at Ayr last November. Yet to win above Class 3 level, and though he wasn’t disgraced when attempting a higher grade, this requires a major step forward when what he’s achieved so far.
Not seen since pulling up in the Irish National, and he probably lacks the gears or ability needed for this.
18. Regal Flow
Veteran whose career highlight was taking the Midlands National in 2018, though is winless in twelve starts since then.
Stays all day, but surely ideally wants further than this and looks to be horse on the downgrade. Vulnerable to younger, quicker types and is unlikely to be a threat.