The 2017 Randox Health Grand National moves a step closer with the news today that 79 horses go forward for the world’s most famous race which is worth £1 million when staged at 5.15pm on Saturday, April 8 at Aintree.
The David Pipe-trained Vieux Lion Rouge, one of the market leaders ever since the weights were unveiled on February 14, is the 10/1 favourite with Betway, the official betting partner of the Randox Health Grand National Festival. He finished seventh in the 2016 Grand National.
Vieux Lion Rouge has enjoyed splendid G3 victories this season in the Betfred Becher Handicap Chase over the Grand National fences at Aintree on December 3 and in the Betfred Grand National Trial Handicap Chase at Haydock Park on February 18.
Pipe, successful in the 2008 Grand National with Comply Or Die, has five others going forward for the Randox Health Grand National, with Ballynagour (66/1), who unseated his rider at the 19th in 2016, the only one of them certain to get a run among the maximum of 40 runners. The trainer’s other remaining entries are La Vaticane (100/1), Doctor Harper (66/1), Father Edward (100/1) and Gone Too Far (100/1).
Definitly Red (Brian Ellison, 12/1) gained an impressive victory in the Grimthorpe Handicap Chase at Doncaster on March 4, when he finished 14 lengths ahead of last year’s Aintree runner-up The Last Samuri (Kim Bailey, 16/1), who is second in the Randox Health Grand National weights on 11st 9lb.
Top-weight Carlingford Lough (John Kiely IRE, 11st 10lb, 33/1) is one of a strong hand of five for leading owner J P McManus, who also has Cause Of Causes (Gordon Elliott IRE, 16/1) who managed a third successive Cheltenham Festival success last week in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase and keeps on improving.
Blaklion (Nigel Twiston-Davies, 16/1) finished second, beaten three and a quarter lengths, in Haydock’s Betfred Grand National Trial, while Scotland’s great hope is One For Arthur (Lucinda Russell, 14/1), impressive winner of the Classic Chase at Warwick in January.
Ucello Conti (Gordon Elliott IRE, 20/1), who shaped well when sixth in 2016 and was a good fourth in the Betfred Becher Chase, is priced at 20/1.
Champion Jump trainer Paul Nicholls hopes to saddle five runners, headed by last week’s G1 Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup fifth Saphir Du Rheu (20/1), owned by the Stewart Family.
Nicholls, triumphant in the 2012 Grand National with Neptune Collonges, also intends running Vicente (25/1), Le Mercurey (33/1), Wonderful Charm (40/1) and Just A Par (40/1), who will be up for sale at the Goffs UK Aintree Sale after racing on the first day of the Randox Health Grand National Festival, Thursday, April 6.
Victory in the Randox Health Grand National would probably ensure Nicholls retains his trainers’ championship, though nearest rival Nicky Henderson is hoping for success with Cocktails at Dawn (80/1).
Jonjo O’Neill intends to have a runner for J P McManus in the Randox Health Grand National, with staying-on Cheltenham Gold Cup sixth More Of That (20/1).
James Moffat, who trains in the Lake District, relies on Highland Lodge (28/1), who just failed to make the Grand National field last year. The close second in the 2016 Becher Handicap Chase and winner of the same race in 2015 has been prepared specially for the race this year.
The Randox Health Grand National, which has 22 Irish entries going forward, is run over four miles, two furlongs and 74 yards and 30 fences.