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"Aintree Grand National 2013" (CC BY 2.0) by stacey.cavanagh
Hailing from the same stable as 2005 winner Hedgehunter, Total Recall won the ultra-competitive Ladbrokes Trophy (previously called the Hennessy Gold Cup) on just his second start for trainer Willie Mullins.
The nine-year-old won all of his first three outings since joining the master Irish handler from Sandra Hughes, but then fell at third last in the Cheltenham Gold Cup – a race connections decided to take in on route to Aintree.
Mullins reports Total Recall to be no worse for that tumble and he thus remains at the head of 2018 Grand National betting with William Hill where he’s been since early December.
The Last Samuri
Owned by Paul and Clare Rooney and trained by Kim Bailey, The Last Samuri had to shoulder top-weight in his second attempt at winning the Grand National 12 months ago after finishing second in 2016.
Now aged ten, he is looking to make it third time lucky in the big one at Aintree and boasts huge experience of the unique spruce-covered fences on the course. It makes The Last Samuri look great each-way value again.
He was second over them in 3m 2f Becher Chase when carrying a welter burden back in December, after needing his seasonal reappearance run over hurdles, and has since run with real credit to finish fourth and third in staying contests at Cheltenham.
Last year’s Grand National winner One For Arthur was trained in Scotland and another borders raider has been laid out for this renewal in the Sandy Thomson trained Seeyouatmidnight.
Connections specifically ran this 10-year-old at Ascot just so he could qualify to go to Aintree. Seeyouatmidnight was third in the Scottish Grand National at Ayr in 2016 while still a novice and has had just four starts since.
He is sure to strip fitter for that recent return to action after a wind operation and almost a year out. Bookmakers certainly seem wary of Seeyouatmidnight,
Anthony Honeyball saw his JP McManus owned 10-year-old Regal Encore finish eighth in the race 12 months ago but, with the front two missing the Grand National year through injury and other placed horses ageing, there looks to be improvement in this runner.
While Regal Encore’s rider from last year Robbie Power is “jocked up” on veteran Welsh Grand National winner Raz De Maree at Aintree this time around, Richie McLernon is arguably the one who gets the best tune out of time.
This was evident when Regal Encore placed third behind Total Recall in the Ladbrokes Trophy and again when victorious a Listed handicap chase at Ascot when last in action in January. It makes him look a bit of each-way value.
And finally, the 2017 Grand National fourth Blaklion always looked likely to return to Aintree for another go. Arguably produced to take up the running too early by Noel Fehily 12 months ago, the nine-year-old former RSA Chase winner landed the Becher in front of The Last Samuri at the course back in December.
Trainer Nigel-Twiston Davies has twice saddled Grand National victors in Earth Summit and Bindaree, so bids for his hat-trick with Blaklion. Despite being high in the weights, he has never finished outside the first four in four career starts at Aintree.
It’s easy to read too much into a second consecutive runner-up finish in the Grand National Trial across Merseyside at Haydock, because the run seemed to be about keeping Blaklion fit rather than winning. He’s a clear contender and features prominently alongside Total Recall in the betting.