Ante-post joint-favourite Blaklion headlines 90 entries going forward for the £1-million Randox Health Grand National at Aintree on Saturday, April 14 – the 171st running – following the first scratchings’ deadline.
Staged over four and a quarter miles and 30 fences, the Randox Health Grand National is the world’s richest and greatest chase – the culmination of Aintree’s famous three-day Randox Health Grand National Festival.
Last year’s fourth Blaklion (11st 6lb), one of five entries going forward for dual Grand National-winning trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies, looked as good as ever when scoring by nine lengths over The Last Samuri (Kim Bailey, 11st 4lb, 16/1 with Betway, official betting partner of the Randox Health Grand National Festival) in the G3 Randox Health Becher Handicap Chase (3m 2f) over the Grand National fences at Aintree on December 9.
Blaklion has since finished second under top-weight to Yala Enki in the Betfred Grand National Trial Handicap Chase on heavy ground at Haydock Park on February 17. He is the 10/1 joint-favourite with Betway as he bids to give Twiston-Davies a third winner in the race following the victories of Earth Summit (1998) and Bindaree (2002).
The Last Samuri, who was second to Rule The World in the 2016 Grand National, finished an excellent fourth behind the Randox Health Grand National top-weight Definitly Red (Brian Ellison, 11st 10lb, 20/1) in the G2 BetBright Trial Cotswold Chase (3m 2f) at Cheltenham on January 27, with American (Harry Fry, 11st 2lb, 50/1) in second.
The Willie Mullins-trained Total Recall (11st 1lb) is the other 10/1 market leader with Betway, having landed the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury and a competitive Leopardstown handicap hurdle on his last two starts. Ireland’s champion Jump trainer, successful at Aintree with Hedgehunter in 2005, has six other entries remaining in the £1-million contest including recent G3 Bobbyjo Chase winner Bellshill (10st 7lb, 18/1) and Pleasant Company (10st 7lb, 33/1), ninth in last year’s renewal.
Britain’s champion Jump trainer Nicky Henderson has two contenders engaged, with the talented Gold Present (11st, 20/1), a three-length winner of a Listed handicap chase at Ascot on December 23 and O O Seven (10st 11lb, 50/1), fifth to his stable companion at Ascot, as the Lambourn handler seeks a first victory in the Randox Health Grand National.
Gordon Elliott, who landed the Grand National with Silver Birch (2007) in his first season with a training licence, has eight remaining entries headed by three-time G1 winner Outlander (11st 8lb, 33/1), Troytown Handicap Chase victor Mala Beach (11st 3lb, 33/1) and last year’s runner-up Cause Of Causes (10st 12lb, 14/1).
Scottish handler Stuart Coltherd is looking forward to saddling Captain Redbeard (10st 3lb, 66/1) in the 2018 Randox Health Grand National following an excellent campaign thus far.
Captain Redbeard finished a creditable third over two and a half miles in an Ayr handicap chase on first start of the season in November, before coming home sixth to Gas Line Boy in the 188Bet Grand Sefton Handicap Chase (2m 5f) over the Grand National fences in December.
A six-length winner on heavy ground over two miles and seven furlongs in the Betfred Tommy Whittle Handicap Chase at Haydock Park later that month, Captain Redbeard was an excellent second to Colin Tizzard’s The Dutchman (10st 7lb, 33/1) on heavy ground in the G2 Peter Marsh Chase, also at Haydock Park, over an extended three miles and one furlong on January 20.
The improving nine-year-old is set to run in the Listed totepool.com Premier Chase at Kelso on Saturday, March 3, weather permitting.
A maximum of 40 runners can line up at 5.15pm on Saturday, April 14 for the 2018 Randox Health Grand National.
The next scratchings’ stage for the Randox Health Grand National is on Tuesday, March 20.
The 2018 Randox Health Grand National Festival at Aintree runs from Thursday, April 12 to Saturday, April 14.