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Paul Nicholls on the Grand National: Tidal Bay all set for Aintree but Rocky Creek only 50-50

Can Tidal Bay triumph at Aintree this year?

"You have to think that Tidal Bay has a lot going for him, and he will obviously be freshened up now and go straight to Aintree for new sponsors Crabbie's £1m race, where we will endeavour to have him in the same form as Neptune Collonges was when he won this race two years ago."

Paul won the National in 2012 with Neptune Collonges and Tidal Bay looks like giving him a very decent chance of victory at Aintree this April. Get Paul's exclusive verdict on his National chances here... 

The main story of last year's Grand National Weights lunch was the fact that Tidal Bay was set to be 9lb well-in at Aintree, compared to his normal handicap mark, only for injury to rule him out of the race a few days later.

Hopefully, there will be no more bad luck on that front this time around, as I am obviously delighted with his weight again this year, as Phil Smith has given him a realistic winning chance off 161, 7lb lower than his current mark.

Tidal Bay is obviously getting on a bit at 13yo - and he did unseat in this race three years ago when with Howard Johnson - but he wasn't far off his brilliant best when a close third off a mark of 163 in the Welsh National, while I was more than satisfied with his second in the Irish Hennessy on Sunday given the race didn't play to his strengths. In fact, that was an awesome run for a 13yo in a Grade 1 race.

You have to think that he has a lot going for him, and he will obviously be freshened up now and go straight to Aintree for new sponsors Crabbie's £1m race, where we will endeavour to have him in the same form as Neptune Collonges was when he won this race two years ago.

Even though people have commented that he didn't appear to get home when runner-up in both his races this season, Rocky Creek hasn't done too much wrong in my eyes, and he looks a National horse to us.

But I have news for you - it could be the 2015 National, and not this year.  

We have yet to sit down and make a final decision, but at the moment it is 50-50 as to whether we go to the Gold Cup rather than Aintree this season.

He was beaten by a race-fit rival at Newbury in Triolo D'Alene, and he didn't have an ideal run-up to the Argento last time - he had a bout of colic between those races - when failing by 7 lengths to give 5lb to a back-to-form The Giant Bolster there. And Harry Topper, a neck behind him that day, didn't do the form any harm on Saturday, did he?

But we just have it in the back of our minds that he has only had seven starts over fences and whether we ought to get some more experience into him before going to Aintree, even if it is not as big a test as in previous years.

Kauto Stone is probably one of the best handicapped horses in here off 152 judged on his Down Royal defeat of First Lieutenant in November 2012 but clearly he has not run anywhere near that mark since, and has been running over 2m lately. But stranger things have happened around Aintree.

However, the Grand National is not at the top of my list of priorities for him, and he will take in the Betfair Ascot Chase on Saturday and the Ryanair at Cheltenhamnext.

Sire Collonges bounced back to form when winning the Cross Country Chase at Cheltenham in December, and he will run in that race at the Festival next month before going to Aintree. 

Cheltenham last time showed that he can rise to a new challenge. I have always thought that he was a National type, as he jumps brilliantly and loves good ground, and he is a horse that you can easily see finishing in the top six at Aintree.

Mon Parrain is certainly well-handicapped on his Topham second three years ago - he is 5lb lower and he did jump the Aintree fences brilliantly that day - but he clearly has had his problems since, missing last season with a leg injury, and has his stamina to prove. 

But he choked on his reappearance at Wetherby and has since had his palate recauterised, so hopefully that will see him rediscover his best form.
I have trained him for the National, and he will have one race before Aintree, though he will not run on bad ground.

Hawkes Point is entered at both Haydock and Ascot on Saturday, and the plan is to run him this weekend providing racing beats this blasted weather, with Haydock the preferred option. That is the race in which Neptune Collonges finished second in before winning the National two years ago.

He ran a great Aintree trial when splitting Mountainous and Tidal Bay in the Welsh National and is on the upgrade, and while he does prefer soft ground, he does have some form on better going and he will love every yard of the trip. But he is 6lb higher than at Chepstow, and that makes life a lot tougher.

There's No Panic was another of my National runners to bounce back to form last time when winning over 3m4f at Sandown in December. 

Quite clearly, he will struggle to get in here, and didn't have the best experience of these fences when brought down in the Topham last year, but he will go to the Kim Muir at Cheltenham next month and we will see what unfolds. But I have one eye on the bet365 for him at Sandown at the end of the season.

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11 February 2014

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