63 named for Grand National ahead of final cut

Ante-post joint-favourite Blaklion headlines 63 entries eager to take part in Aintree’s £1-million Randox Health Grand National at 5.15pm on Saturday, April 14 – the 171st running – following today’s five-day confirmation stage.

Staged over four and a quarter miles and 30 fences, the Randox Health Grand National is the world’s greatest and richest chase – the culmination of Aintree’s three-day Randox Health Grand National Festival.

Katie Walsh is keenly anticipating partnering Baie Des Iles (10st 7lb, 33/1 with Betway, official betting partner of the Randox Health Grand National Festival) in Saturday’s £1-million contest.

Trained by Walsh’s husband Ross O’Sullivan in Ireland, the seven-year-old grey mare was a fine third behind subsequent Irish Grand National fourth Folsom Blue in a Grand National trial at Punchestown in February.

Amateur rider Walsh, a Randox Health Grand National Festival Ambassador for the fourth time in 2018, achieved the highest-ever finish by a female jockey in the Aintree spectacular when third aboard Seabass, trained by her father Ted, in 2012. She has completed the course on four of her five Grand National rides.

Last year’s fourth Blaklion (11st 9lb), one of four entries for dual Grand National-winning trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies, was a decisive nine-length winner over The Last Samuri (Kim Bailey, 11st 7lb, 16/1) in the G3 Randox Health Becher Handicap Chase (3m 2f) over the Grand National fences at Aintree on December 9.

The Gloucestershire-based trainer is also hoping to run Double Ross (10st 5lb, 100/1), Splash Of Ginge (10st, 66/1) and Cogry (10st, 100/1), although it is doubtful whether the last two will get in the final field of 40, plus four reserves, revealed on Thursday morning.

Blaklion was second under top-weight on his latest start in the Betfred Grand National Trial Handicap Chase on heavy ground at Haydock Park on February 17, and has since had a wind operation.

He is the 10/1 joint-favourite with Betway, official betting partner of the Randox Health Grand National Festival, as he attempts to provide Twiston-Davies with a third winner following the victories of Earth Summit (1998) and Bindaree (2002).

Another 10/1 joint favourite is the Willie Mullins-trained Total Recall (11st 4lb), who was staying-on when falling at the third last in the G1 Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup at the Cheltenham Festival in March, having landed the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury in December.

Ireland’s champion Jump trainer Mullins, successful in the Randox Health Grand National with Hedgehunter in 2005, has two other entries going forward courtesy of Pleasant Company (10st 10lb, 33/1), 10th in last year’s renewal, and Children’s List (10st 7lb, 66/1).

Gordon Elliott, winner of the Grand National with Silver Birch (2007) in his first season with a training licence, is responsible for the third 10/1 joint-favourite, Tiger Roll (10st 12lb), who became the sixth horse to win three different races at the Cheltenham Festival following his success in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase last month.

Elliott, who beat Mullins eight to seven in the number of winners sent out at the Cheltenham Festival, is also likely to be represented by Ucello Conti (10st 9lb, 25/1), who was sixth in the 2016 Grand National before unseating his rider at the 22nd fence in last year’s renewal. He is also responsible for Bless The Wings (10st 5lb, 50/1) and the recent Irish Grand National winner General Principle (10st 1lb, 33/1).

Britain’s current champion Jump trainer Nicky Henderson is set to be represented by Gold Present (11st 3lb, 22/1), a three-length winner of a Listed handicap chase at Ascot on December 23, who had an issue when pulled up in the G3 Ultima Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.

Colin Tizzard’s The Dutchman (10st 10lb, 28/1), was an impressive winner of the G2 Peter Marsh Chase on heavy ground at Haydock over an extended three miles and one furlong on January 20, in which Captain Redbeard (Stuart Coltherd, 10st 6lb, 33/1) was 13 lengths behind in second.

The Dutchman burst a blood vessel when pulled up in the Betfred Grand National Trial at Haydock Park in February, but assistant trainer Joe Tizzard reports the eight-year-old son of King’s Theatre to be in fine fettle.

A maximum of 40 runners can line up at 5.15pm on Saturday, April 14 for the 2018 Randox Health Grand National. The final declaration stage is at 10.00am on Thursday, April 12. The declared runners, plus a maximum of four reserves, will be known shortly after this time.

Reserves come into the race if there are any withdrawals among the 40 declared runners prior to 1.00pm on Friday, April 13.

The 2018 Randox Health Grand National Festival at Aintree runs from Thursday, April 12 to Saturday, April 14.

The Sandy Thomson-trained Seeyouatmidnight (10st 11lb), currently a 16/1 shot with Betway for the Randox Health Grand National, has been bought by Patricia Thompson ahead of Saturday’s race.

This has been a successful tactic for Thompson, who owns Cheveley Park Stud in Newmarket with her husband David, in the past as she bought Party Politics from owner-breeder David Stoddart days before the gelding won the 1992 running of the world’s greatest chase.

The owner has tried to repeat this feat on several occasions, but has been out of luck in recent years.

Last year, she purchased Le Mercurey (who finished 12th) and Highland Lodge (pulled up before the final fence) in the days leading up to the Randox Health Grand National and then snapped up Just A Par (who finished 14th and ran in the colours of the Thompsons’ son, Richard) at the Goffs UK Aintree Horses-in-Training Sale at the racecourse after racing on the first day of the meeting, Grand National Thursday.

Prior to the 2010 Randox Health Grand National, Thompson purchased the well-fancied Character Building, who went on to be seventh under leading amateur rider Nina Carberry, a total of 37 lengths adrift of the A P McCoy-ridden winner Don’t Push It. Both Character Building and Carberry returned the following year for another crack at the race, but could only finish 15th behind the Donald McCain-trained Ballabriggs.

Seeyouatmidnight has faced a race against in time in order to qualify for this year’s Randox Health Grand National.

The 10-year-old, who previously ran in the colours of Sandy Thomson’s wife Quona, needed to run in a chase this season, but several abandoned meetings had frustrated the Scottish-based trainer in his attempt to get Seeyouatmidnight to meet the qualifying criteria.

However, the horse eventually managed to qualify for the Randox Health Grand National following a run at Newbury on March 24, when he finished third under top-weight in a handicap chase over two and a half miles, Seeyouatmidnight’s first outing for a year following wind surgery.

Seeyouatmidnight beat another one of his rivals on Saturday, Regal Encore (10st 12lb, 33/1), when making a successful debut under Rules at 66/1 in a Hexham novice (under Randox Health Grand National winning jockey Ryan Mania) in December, 2013 and he went on the same season to land the G2 Rendlesham Hurdle at Haydock.

As a novice over fences, he beat Blaklion, the 10/1 current joint-favourite for this year’s Randox Health Grand National, in the G2 Dipper Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham in 2016 and, the following season, he had the measure of subsequent G1 winner Bristol De Mai in the Colin Parker Memorial Intermediate Chase at Carlisle.

Betway keeping an eye on Fly

Betway, official betting partner of the Randox Health Grand National Festival, cannot split 10/1 shots Blaklion, Tiger Roll and Total Recall at the head of the market for Saturday’s £1-million Randox Health Grand National following this afternoon’s five-day confirmation stage.

The trio have been at the head of Betway’s ante-post book for some time now, with Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up Anibale Fly next in the betting at 11/1 following his fine effort at The Festival last month.

Top-weight Minella Rocco is next at 16/1, alongside Seeyouatmidnight, just purchased by Randox Health Grand National winning-owner Patricia Thompson, and The Last Samuri, who finished second behind Rule The World in the 2016 running of the world’s greatest chase.

“At the moment, it’s looking like one of Blaklion, Tiger Roll, Total Recall or Anibale Fly will go off as favourite for this year’s Grand National but, as we’ve seen many times over the years, this can all change in the run-up to Saturday – especially with an unsettled weather forecast over the next few days,” said Betway’s Alan Alger.

“However, it will be interesting to see if there is any further support for Anibale Fly over the next few days after it was confirmed that Barry Geraghty will be on board on Saturday and it’s not inconceivable that he joins the current co-favourites of three at the head of the market in the next 48 hours.”

Randox Health Grand National Betting:
10/1 Blaklion, Tiger Roll, Total Recall; 11/1 Anibale Fly; 16/1 Minella Rocco, Seeyouatmidnight, The Last Samuri; 22/1 Gold Present; 25/1 Gas Line Boy, I Just Know, Ucello Conti; 28/1 The Dutchman, Vieux Lion Rouge; 33/1 Baie Des Iles, Captain Redbeard, General Principle, Milansbar, Pleasant Company, Regal Encore, Shantou Flyer, Vicente, Vintage Clouds; 40/1 Alpha Des Obeaux, Raz De Maree, Saint Are; 50/1 Bless The Wings, Buywise, Carlingford Lough, Final Nudge, Valseur Lido, Warriors Tale; 66/1 Bonny Kate, Braqueur d’Or, Chase The Spud, Childrens List, Delusionofgrandeur, Houblon Des Obeaux, Lord Windermere, Pendra, Perfect Candidate, Road to Riches, Splash of Ginge, The Young Master, Thunder And Roses, Walk In The Mill; 80/1 Virgilio; 100/1 Beeves, Cogry, Double Ross, Maggio, Minella Daddy, Mysteree, Phils Magic, Relentless Dreamer, Rouge Angel, Sir Mangan, Tenor Nivernais, Wounded Warrior; 125/1 Alfie Spinner, Henry Parry Morgan, Out Sam; 150/1 Dancing Shadow, Krackatoa King.

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