This is our first taste of the Grand National fences of the season and is always an enthralling contest.
Don Poli tops the weights here and is returning to the track for the first time in two years following a tendon injury. When last seen in competitive action he finished third behind subsequent Gold Cup winner Sizing John and if Gordon has him fit enough he could take the prize back across the Irish Sea.
Nigel Twiston-Davies holds a very strong hand in this with Blaklion and Ballyoptic, the former is the choice of his son Sam and must have a big chance. He has a great record over these fences having finished fourth in the National two season ago behind One For Arthur and winning this race last year.
He runs off a five pounds higher mark this time around but has had a wind op since that win and looks sure to run well. Ballyoptic was a Grade 1 winner over hurdles and was a fine second in the Scottish National. This will be his first attempt over the National fences and if taking to them, then he will take all the beating.
Vieux Lion Rouge won this back in 2016 and now races off only a four pound higher mark. If you also take into consideration that he has had a wind op since his last run, then he could outrun his odds and reward his followers.
The Tingle Creek is shaping up to be one of the best races of the season as the reigning Champion Chaser Altior makes his eagerly anticipated seasonal debut. Nick Henderson’s inmate is unbeaten in his last fourteen starts and if he jumps a clear round then a fifteen straight win looks on the cards.
Sceau Royal and Saint Calvados have both had the benefit of a winning run this season which connections will be hoping will give them an edge over the favourite Altior. Sceau Royal has only tasted defeat once over fences and was a Grade 1 winner last season. Although he is undoubtedly a talented horse, I can’t see him being up to winning this.
Saint Calvados has only had five runs for current connections having made the move from his native France. He was sent off at 11/4 to land last season’s Arkle but trailed in a disappointing fourth of five behind Footpad. Harry Whittington sent him to Ireland on season debut where he won a Grade 3 at Naas. This was an impressive performance and although Footpad fell at the last, he was already well in command at that stage. If he can build on that then a fruitful season lies ahead.
Un De Sceaux makes the trip over from Wille Mullins’s yard and this mud loving front-runner won the race back in 2016. He may not be quite as good as he once was but this 22-time winner will put it up to them.
Many Clouds Chase
Definitly Red won this race season en-route to finishing a creditable sixth in the Gold Cup behind Native River. He made a winning reappearance in the Grade 2 Charlie Hall at Wetherby most recently and will be put away until the Gold Cup(Insert link) after this. Brian Ellison really believes in this horse and thinks he should get more credit but credit is earned and the truth is he’s never won a Grade 1 race and must improve.
Former Grand National winner, One For Arthur makes his eagerly anticipated return following a 609-day break. In fact, Lucinda Russell’s stable star hasn’t been in action since that memorable win. Although everyone is looking forward to seeing him run, a watching brief is best advised.
Double Shuffle only made it as far as the first in the Charlie Hall but has some good form to his name including a runner-up finish in the King George last season. There may be further improvement to come from Tom George’s charge and I for one am excited to see him.
The field is completed by Acdc who in all reality will need his three rivals to come to grief is he is to win this.
Selection: Double Shuffle
Henry VIII Novices Chase
This race revolves around the popular Lalor, who was responsible for one of the most emotional moments of the season when winning the Grade 1 Top Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree in April for Kayley Woollacott. Lalor was very impressive on his first run over fences when proving seven lengths too good for his closest rival Dynamite Dollars. He is one of the most exciting novice chasers in training and should enhance his already tall reputation.
Dynamite Dollars had an excellent start to the season when cosily winning a novice event at Market Rasen. He beat Highway One O One by nine lengths that day and the runner-up franked the form during the week by land a Graduation chase from the smart Dolos. Paul Nicholls’ five-year-old is a nice type and although he was comprehensively beaten by Lalor most recently, he could be one to follow for the season over fences.
Pingshou hadn’t been seen for 570 days prior to an encouraging reappearance behind Lalor at Cheltenham last month. Colin Tizzards inmate was a winner of the Grade 1 Top Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree back in 2017. This victory was followed by a third-place finish in another Grade 1 at the Punchestown festival. He looks sure to come on for his reappearance and should finish a lot closer to Lalor
Diakali has already proved to be a very shrewd acquisition for the Moore team. This former Willie Mullins inmate was a Grade 1 winner as a four-year-old and has won all three starts since being sent over fences. He may have been slightly fortunate to keep this record intact last time but should still run well in this.
Grand Sefton Chase
This is another race to savour for those who love the national fences. Nigel Twiston-Davies trained Little Josh to take this back in 2012 and is he represented by Crievehill this time around. Highclere racings six-year-old has been very consistent and progressive in recent runs, including a runner-up finish in a decent handicap at Haydock at the end of last season. He kicked off the current campaign with a respectable second behind Jarvet and looks to have a live chance.
One of the youngest horses in the field is Catamaran Du Seuil, who hails from the Grand National winning yard of Dr Richard Newland. The French-bred son of Network has reached a new level of form in his last three starts, with a runner-up finish in the Tommy Whittle and two impressive wins both at Wetherby. He is on a real upward curve and may be hard to contain here.
Captain Redbeard finished sixth in this contest twelve months ago behind Gas Line Boy off a mark of 137. He was second in the Peter Marsh later that season but only got to the seventh fence in the Grand National. Stuart Colthred’s nine-year-old now races off 144 and although he should run well, he may come up short against some less-exposed rivals.
Former Galway Plate winner Shanahan’s Turn may be running off a nice mark here and is from the bang in form stable of Colin Tizzard. He runs off only one-pound higher than when finishing second to Ultragold in the Topham last season. A disappointing run at Cheltenham when last seen has to be forgotten but a return to these fences may spark a revival.
Paul Nicholls’ is represented by Warriors Tale, who pulled up in the Grand National after being hampered at the chair when last seen over these fences. Trevor Hemmings who is synonymous with Aintree owned Warrior Tale and he may run well but again, I find it hard to see him winning.
Selection: Shanahan’s Turn