Who Are The Contenders For The Grand National?
One For Arthur’s absence from the Grand National will pave the way for a new champion in racing’s most prestigious meet in April. Lucinda Russell’s charge was an outsider for the crown, but came through the field to win the event at Aintree.
However, an injury has sidelined the bay gelding
, leaving the title open for a new competitor to claim. The field is packed with talented horses, making the options in the betting market a tough prospect, especially given the unpredictable nature of the meet. Blaklion is considered the leading contender for the crown among bookmakers with Oddschecker and would be worthy of using a free bet
, although he will face a task getting over the line.
One For Arthur had an impressive 2016-17 season before the Grand National. He won his first race of the campaign at the EDF-ER Handicap Chase at Kelso by six lengths. Russell’s charge competed at the Becher Handicap Chase, but was narrowly off the pace in that meet as Vieux Lion Rouge claimed the victory at Aintree. However, he bounced back at the Classic Handicap Chase at Warwick, securing the victory by six lengths down the stretch.
One For Arthur arrived at the Grand National with momentum and was able to channel it into victory with a surge down the final straight. We’ll now look at the form of Blaklion and the rest of the contenders for the title to see if they can emulate the success of Russell`s charge.
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The bay gelding was a candidate to win the Grand National last season. However, Nigel Twiston-Davies’ charge was one of the 39 horses blown away by the speed of One For Arthur down the stretch as he mustered only a fourth-place finish at the meet. He returned to action for the start of the 2017/18 season at Wetherby in the Charlie Hall Chase. With Gavin Sheehan in the saddle, Blaklion battled through the field before he and Bristol De Mai jostled for the lead. The French horse just managed to get the edge on him to take the race by half-a-length.
However, Twiston-Davies’ charge was able to respond in fine fashion with a brilliant performance at the Becher Handicap Chase at Aintree
. Sheehan once again had the reins and he made a steady start to the race, holding up in the back of the field. He made his surge two fences from the end of the meet and was able to pull away from The Last Samuri, securing the victory down the stretch by nine lengths. Blaklion failed to rise to the occasion at the Grand National last season, but should he display the form of the Becher Handicap Chase in December then he has an excellent opportunity.
The Irish horse transferred under the tutelage of Mullins at the start of the 2017-18 season. Sandra Hughes had trained the nine-year-old for the majority of his career and enjoyed a semblance of success. However, Total Recall has taken the next step in his development and has a real opportunity to shine at Aintree in April. He made his first appearance of the season in the Munster National Handicap Chase at Limerick Racecourse and with Ruby Walsh in the saddle, the bay gelding produced a near-flawless display to win the meet by seven lengths ahead of Alpha Des Obeaux.
Paul Townend took the reins for the Ladbrokes Trophy Chase. Mullins’ charge made a steady start to the race and was able to surge through the field to challenge four fences from the finish. Total Recall forged ahead after the penultimate fence, although he had to fend off Whisper’s late press down the stretch, just edging to the victory by half-a-length. The Irish horse was considered the leading contender for the William Fry Handicap Hurdle at Leopardstown. The nine-year-old in the hands of Townend made the move into the lead at the right moment and was able to pull away down the stretch to claim the victory by three lengths
. Timing is everything in the Grand National and could be the factor that hands the Irish horse and Mullins the crown.
The Last Samuri
The Irish horse competed at the Grand National, but put forward a disappointing performance, finishing well off the pace in 16th place. The 10-year-old has not been at his best in the 2017/18 campaign, although his experience may stand him in good stead compared to his rivals. Kim Bailey’s charge competed in the Handicap Hurdle at Kempton Park and was a rank outsider for the contest. However, with David Bass in the saddle, The Last Samuri found his rhythm on the track and took an early lead, only to lose his position. He rallied down the stretch to provide a challenge for his compatriot for Bags Groove, although lost out by one-and-a-quarter lengths.
The chestnut gelding carried his form into the Becher Handicap Chase. Bass once again took the reins and was able to keep pace with the early leaders. He struggled through the middle portion of the race, but found strength down the stretch, but it was not enough to close the gap to Blaklion. The Irish horse competed against a talented field at the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham. Although he recovered from a slow start to the race, Bailey’s charge was off the pace of Definitly Red, who won the race by a comfortable margin. The Last Samuri has the experience, but perhaps not the pace of his rivals going into the Grand National.
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Brian Ellison’s charge is certainly one to watch due to his form in the 2017/18 season. The bay gelding pulled up at the Grand National last season at the ninth fence, and will be targeting a stronger outing this time around. His form has been impressive to start the campaign, although he was off the pace in the first meet of the term. Definitly Red competed in the Charlie Hall Chase, and although he put forward a decent outing, the speed of Bristol De Mai and Blaklion left him trailing in third place.
However, the nine-year-old found his form at the Many Clouds Chase last December at Aintree, sending out a statement of intent for the National. He was considered the favourite for the meet and delivered on expectations by claiming the victory by seven lengths. Ellison’s charge faced stiff competition at the Cotswold Chase and did not have the best record at Cheltenham. With Danny Cook in the saddle, he made a solid start to the meet before taking the lead three fences out. The Irish horse pulled away down the stretch with a surge of speed, defeating his nearest rival by eight lengths
. Should he continue to display such pace in the closing stages – he will be a force to be reckoned with at Aintree.
Who Will Rise To The Challenge?
The four horses are strong competitors and proven so throughout their respective careers. Blaklion may have put forward the best performance and biggest hint that he can secure the crown. However, One For Arthur did not win the Becher Handicap Chase and was still able to dominate at the National. Total Recall and Definitly Red are certainly ones to watch given their form and speed in notorious races. Total Recall does not have the experience of racing at Aintree, which could loom large against his rivals.
Blaklion and The Last Samuri finished the race last season, although both underwhelmed given the expectations of both horses entering the race. The same can be said of Definitly Red, who has an unfortunate history of failing on the big stage. The unpredictable nature of the race means that any competitor could emerge from nowhere to win the meet - but these four horses have the best opportunity to enter the winner`s circle should the form guide hold in April.