It's here! The Grand National really is a special race. Everyone knows the score with it, one could pick three or four selections and not have anything in contention with a circuit still to run.
Backing the Grand National winner will of course always be about winning a few quid, but there is something deeply fulfilling about achieving it. There is no greater puzzle in horse racing and there are few greater pleasures than watching your selection prove itself to be the solution to that puzzle.
Unfortunately, I can't claim any great track record in solving it. I have to go back to Ballabriggs in 2011 to find the last occasion that my first-choice selection got the job done. My memories of the race have also been scarred by deeply frustrating defeats for my selections, including Clan Royal when Liam Cooper got lost halfway up the run-in and was nailed by Amberleigh House, Sunnnyhillboy getting nipped in a desperate photo-finish and Any Second Now finishing third after getting brought to a standstill by a faller.
But we will never stop trying!
This year's renewal will see 20 Irish-trained horses take on 20 British-trainer runners and given the dominance that the Irish have enjoyed in recent renewals of the race, my preference is for the visitors.
Poet's preparation looks solid
I've spent much of the week pouring over the form to come up with my final answers and the two I have narrowed it down to are the Martin Brassil-trained Longhouse Poet and the Ciaran Murphy-trained Enjoy D'Allen.
Longhouse Poet was a classy novice hurdler, hitting the frame in Grade 1 company on a couple of occasions. He produced some eye-catching efforts over fences last season, most notably when beating the high-class Run Wild Fred in a maiden chase at Punchestown.
This season saw him stamp himself as a progressive chaser when outrunning expectations to win the Thyestes Chase at Gowran Park despite a wide trip and hitting the front plenty early. He completed his preparation for this race with a run over hurdles at Navan in February.
The eight-year-old has shown plenty of stamina in his races and will hopefully have enough in reserve for this marathon distance. He has a neat jumping style that should suit these unique fences. He also travels well in his races and should be able to take up a handy position under his promising young jockey. He ticks plenty of boxes.
Irish Grand National third can go on...
The other one I like is Enjoy D'Allen. He is one that really has been laid out for this race all season. He finished off his 2020/21 campaign by running a fine race to finish third in the Irish Grand National.
Since then, everything has been geared towards Aintree. He has had two runs over hurdles this season and in between them he ran a fine race to finish third in the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown's Christmas meeting.
The eight-year-old very much shapes as though this marathon stamina test will play to his strengths and he jumps in a style that should be well suited to these fences. He looks to have a proper chance and I can't wait to see how he fares.
Best of luck whatever your selections and here's hoping we have a clean and exciting race.