Betfair ambassador Paul Nicholls has six runners on the opening day of the Grand National Festival at Aintree. Here he gives us his exclusive thoughts on them all...
"When Pacha du Polder finished fifth in this behind On The Fringe a year ago he'd had a hectic time and we made too much use of him on ground that was a bit too soft for him.
He'd probably had enough by then but he is in sparkling form now."
Has been a brilliant flag-bearer for the yard this season, winning six times over fences and progressing all through the winter. We decided to bypass Cheltenham with him after his latest success in the Pendil Chase at Kempton and he comes here fresh and well.
While this is his first shot at a Grade 1 he will be ideally suited by the good ground and flat track and looks the obvious danger to Top Notch.
Not quite as good as he was but it would be dangerous to write him off now given that he would have pipped Cue Card for second place in the King George VI Chase on Boxing Day in one more stride and has won this race in 2014 and 2015.
Track and trip are ideal for Conti who could surprise a few people here as he is at his best when fresh and is ideally suited by good ground on a flat track.
He is in seriously good order after working impressively at Wincanton last week and you can pick holes in the form of all the others in the race. Has to have a big chance in a race which is his Gold Cup.
Is punching above his weight here and is up against it even though conditions are in his favour. I'd say this trip of two and a half miles is perfect for Old Guard and hopefully he can pick up a few crumbs here.
Gained a famous victory in the Foxhunters with Bryony Frost last month and looks amazing at the moment, as well as I've seen him for a long time, big and strong and bouncing.
Bryony will take her time on him down the inner, as she did at Cheltenham, and he must have a great chance of completing the double.
When Pacha du Polder finished fifth in this behind On The Fringe a year ago he'd had a hectic time and we made too much use of him on ground that was a bit too soft for him.
He'd probably had enough by then but he is in sparkling form now.
We are putting the blinkers back on Rebel Rebellion who ran below expectations at Leicester last time where I made the mistake of running him too quickly after a promising comeback at Wincanton behind Ask The Weatherman.
He has had just the two runs to qualify and although he is not as good as he was at his prime this has been his aim for a while as he won a Sefton over these fences in the past and has also been round in the National.
Just missed the cut in the Close Bros Handicap Chase at Cheltenham and then failed to give his true running in a small field at Kempton a few days later when he pulled much too hard and got into a wrestling match with Sam Twiston-Davies because they went no gallop.
What he wants is a fast run race which will allow him to settle before finishing in the manner which saw him come so close to snatching victory in the Fred Winter at Cheltenham last season. He has a nice weight and could bounce back here if he gets his act together over a trip that might be just short of his best.
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