Ante-post favourite Blaklion (10/1) remains firmly at the head of the betting for the 171st renewal of the £1-million Randox Health Grand National after a total of 105 entries were declared for the race at noon on Wednesday 31st January.
Looked after and trained by dual Grand National-winning trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies, Blaklion is one of six entries from the Naunton based handler.
His 2018 entries also include the multiple Grade One winner Bristol De Mai (25/1), who is the most likely candidate for top-weight, BetVictor Gold Cup hero and popular Merseyside favourite Splash Of Ginge (50/1) and the Aintree Grade One scorer Flying Angel (66/1).
Britain’s current champion Jump trainer Nicky Henderson, who has yet to add this race to his illustrious CV, will saddle three contenders in Gold Present (25/1),Vyta Du Roc (33/1) and O O Seven (66/1).
Irish-trained runners account for 40 of the initial entries with 11 of those runners coming from the Gigginstown House Stud. Total Recall (25/1), Cause Of Causes (25/1) and Ucello Conti (33/1) are the most prominent runners in the betting from Ireland.
Definitly Red (20/1) was pulled up last April after his saddle slipped. Brian Ellison’s runner should be a major contender again after his impressive win in the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham last time out. Before returning to Aintree he will take in the small matter of running in the Gold Cup next month.
Colin Tizzard has three entries in Sizing Codelco (50/1), The Dutchman (33/1), who the Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock in January, and Third Intention.
Joe Tizzard, assistant trauner said: “The Dutchman would have to be our leading hope after his last run at Haydock. He will head back up there in three weeks for the Grand National Trial and go from there.
“He has gone up 13lb to 148, so he should get a run in the National. It looks like he will stay that sort of trip and he jumps nicely.
“It was a strong run first time out at Haydock (second behind Sam Spinner in the Stayers’ Handicap) and we possibly went back to the well too quickly at Cheltenham with him. He was hugely impressive at Haydock last time.”
Other Grand National-winning trainers with 2018 entries include Paul Nicholls, whose sextet of possible runners is headed by dual Scottish Grand National victor Vicente (25/1), and Mouse Morris, who has Irish Grand National scorers Rogue Angel (50/1) and Thunder And Roses (40/1) among his three entries.
Vicente’s owner Trevor Hemmings has won the Grand National three times since 2005 and is the joint most successful trainer in the history of the world’s greatest chase. His other entry is Welsh Grand National fourth Vintage Clouds (Sue Smith, 40/1).
Welsh Grand National hero Raz De Maree (Gavin Cromwell IRE, 40/1) is engaged, as is impressive Classic Handicap Chase victor Milansbar (Neil King, 50/1).
Abolitionist (40/1) was third in last season’s Irish Grand National when trained by Ellmarie Holden, and has since been bought by Dr Richard Newland, who claimed National glory with Pineau De Re in 2014.
Newland said: “Abolitionist is coming back from an injury. We got him in the autumn and then he had an issue with a stress fracture.
“He is on the way back now and doing really nicely. He is a nice horse who shows a good attitude and we are pleased to have him.
“We are stepping up his work and hope to have him on the track towards the end of February. Then all being well, he will go on to Aintree for the Grand National.
“He could have a spin over hurdles at Ascot on February 17 or there is a veterans’ chase at Doncaster on February 21.
“The rules have changed, so he has to run in a chase this season to be qualified. If he starts off over hurdles, then he would run again over fences in March.”
The entry figure has broken the 100-mark for the fourth time in the last five years – entry details since 2010 are as follows:- 2018-105; 2017-110, 2016-126, 2015-98; 2014-115; 2013-84; 2012-82; 2011-102 and 2010-112.
The weights for the 2018 Randox Health Grand National are decided by the British Horseracing Authority’s Head of Handicapping, Phil Smith, in what will be his final National. The allocated weights will be unveiled on the evening of Tuesday, February 13th, at BAFTA in London’s West End.
The Randox Health Grand National is the only handicap of the year where Phil Smith has absolute discretion to deviate from the normal handicap ratings when determining the weights.