Long-time antepost favourite Blaklion has drifted slightly in recent weeks and no longer heads the market, but Mike Norman believes Nigel Twiston-Davies' charge is still the horse to beat in this year's Grand National...
"Perhaps crucially, it has emerged recently the Blaklion has had a wind operation since his defeat at Haydock and this 161-rated nine-year-old is reported to be in rude health ahead of a crack at this year's Grand National."
|Blaklion Form||Wins||Runs||2nd Place Runs||3rd Place Runs||Winnings|
Fourth in last year's Grand National, Blaklion has only been seen three times this season but all three appearances were excellent efforts, including an impressive victory in the Beecher Chase (over the National fences) in December, a race in which he had The Last Samuri nine lengths back in second.
He goes well fresh too, as proved when runner-up to Bristol De Mai on his seasonal reappearance in the mud, so the two-month break won't be a negative despite being beat a long way behind Yala Enki in the Grand National Trial in February, a respectable effort given the bottomless and gruelling ground conditions.
Perhaps crucially, it has emerged recently the Blaklion has had a wind operation since his defeat at Haydock and this 161-rated nine-year-old is reported to be in rude health ahead of a crack at this year's Grand National.
Previous Aintree Form
Blaklion has plenty of Aintree experience so there's absolutely no concerns at all about his ability to handle the track, and indeed the big occasion. He ran fourth behind the high class Thistlecrack as a hurdler, finished third - beaten just over six lengths - by this year's Gold Cup winner Native River in the Mildmay Novices Chase in 2016, and as we've already touched on, he was fourth in last year's Grand National before winning the Beecher Chase before Christmas.
In a nutshell then, Blaklion has never fell at Aintree, has never been out of the first four in any of his races at the venue, and has rock solid form over the National fences. Perhaps the only concern is that he didn't find as much as expected towards the end of last year's renewal on good to soft ground, so stamina might be a slght issue if the ground becomes really testing.
Father of leading rider Sam, Nigel Twiston-Davies specialises in staying chasers, so he's the absolute ideal man to have on your side if he trains any of your Grand National fancies. Trainer of two National winners previously, and plenty of other placed runners, plus a Gold Cup-winning trainer, NTD knows the exact time of day when it comes to Aintree in April.
His current form is solid too, operating at around a 25% winning strike rate in the weeks leading up to this year's Grand National Festival. Put simply, it's another tick in the box for Blaklion.
Odds and Verdict
Immediately installed as the antepost favourite for this year's renewal following his fourth-placed effort last year, Blaklion held his position at the top of the market throughout the winter and until his Grand National trial in February.
A 54L beating by Yala Enki in that race seems to have put a few punters off however, but it's easy to either completely forget that trial race, or view the fact that he finished second on stamina-sapping ground - when only three horses finished the race - as a positive.
At [13.5] to back on the Exchange, he is now a very attractive price given that there isn't really a negative to speak about in terms of Blaklion's profile, his current form, his Aintree form, and his trainer.