Runner-up in 2016, the Last Samuri should give another good account of himself and have no problems with the Grand National fences, but Alan Dudman fears he'll fall just short of being good enough to figure...
"His runner-up effort behind Blaklion in this season's Becher was a fine performance however, and a real comeback."
|The Last Samuri Form
||2nd Place Runs
||3rd Place Runs
With four runs this season prior to Aintree, The Last Samuri has been performing well without winning. He appeared in the Cross Country Chase at the Cheltenham Festival; where he finished a creditable but ultimately well beaten third behind stayer supreme Tiger Roll.
He has raced three times during this campaign on bottomless ground, and the only time he ran on a spring-like surface on genuine good terrain came in his first run of the season - where he collected an excellent second over hurdles at Kempton at 2m5f.
Previous Aintree Form
With two previous attempts at the Grand National (and a couple of placed efforts in the Becher), this 10yo knows his way around the Aintree fences. He jumped superbly to finish second in 2016 behind Rule The World, but he ran poorly in last year's race when beaten 66 lengths from a mark of 161 (12lb higher than the previous year).
His runner-up effort behind Blaklion in this season's Becher was a fine performance however, and a real comeback. He was giving the winner 6lb with slightly different tactics coming from off the pace, but he is better being up with the speed.
Kim Bailey won this in 1990 with Mr Frisk, and he identified The Last Samuri as an ideal type for the great steeplechase early in his career. It's great to see Bailey become something of a "Renaissance Man" over the past few years, and he excels with old-fashioned chasing types. At the time of writing, the handler was on 44 winners for the season - although his higher percentage of successes have come from hurdlers and bumper horses.
His Cheltenham team was small and select - with two third places out of three runners. Although with the record of Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott, you'd probably take two bronze medals!
Odds & Verdict
Marcus Armytage (the man who rode Mr Frisk) described The Last Samuri in the Telegraph as a horse who raises his game over the big fences - and it's hard to argue with his record. Despite being on the small side, he is really nimble and clearly loves his jumping, but is he still as good as his runner-up effort in 2016?
He has to carry 11-7, and runs from a mark of 159. He should get round due to his fencing ability, but I fear one or two others might be too good for him.