Multiple Grade One winner Bristol De Mai heads the weights on 11st 10lb for the 172nd running Aintree Grand National.
Bristol De Mai is one of nine entries for the dual Grand National-winning trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies. The popular grey gained his second Betfair Chase at Haydock Park in November, when he defeated last year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Native River by four lengths.
Twiston-Davies, whose Aintree successes came courtesy of Earth Summit (1998) and Bindaree (2002), also has the Sky Bet Chase victor Go Conquer (10st 13lb) and 2017 Becher Handicap Chase winner Blaklion (10st 12lb) among his nine entries.
The 2018 Grand National hero Tiger Roll has been allotted 11st 1lb, as he bids to become the first dual winner of the race since Red Rum.
Tiger Roll is the 20/1 joint-favourite with most bookmakers alongside the Welsh Grand National winner Elegant Escape (11st 4lb). Earth Summit was the last horse to win the Welsh Grand National and the Aintree Grand National in the same season (1997/98).
Tiger Roll’s trainer Gordon Elliott, also successful with Silver Birch in 2007, accounts for 22 of the record 47 Irish-trained entries. Elliott’s squad also features Cheltenham Festival winner The Storyteller (11st 3lb) and General Principle (10st), winner of the 2018 Irish Grand National.
Elliott’s Irish compatriot Willie Mullins, successful in 2005 with Hedgehunter, has 10 entries in total. Mullins’ contenders are headed by last year’s National runner-up Pleasant Company (10st 11lb), National Hunt Chase winner Rathvinden (10st 10lb) and Up For Review (10st 2lb) who finished third in the Thyestes Chase on his latest start.
Anibale Fly (11st 6lb) has the biggest weight of any Irish-trained challenger. The J P McManus-owned runner finished fourth last year on the back of his third place in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Owner Trevor Hemmings is chasing down a fourth Grand National triumph, which would make him the winning-most owner of all time. His three entries are Lake View Lad (10st 11lb), winner of the Listed Rehearsal Chase and the Rowland Meyrick Chase already this season, the Grand Sefton Handicap Chase scorer Warriors Tale (10st 9lb) and the Sue Smith-trained Vintage Clouds (10st 0lb), Smith being herself a previous Grand National-winning trainer in 2013.
The 2017 Grand National winner One For Arthur, who was unable to defend his crown last year due to injury, has been given 10st 10lb by the new official handicapper, Martin Greenwood.
Other entries with proven form over the Grand National fences include this season’s Becher Handicap Chase winner Walk In The Mill (10st 0lb) and Ultragold (10st 3lb), who has taken the last two renewals of the shorter, but equally demanding, Topham Chase.
Dr Richard Newland last tasted Grand National glory in 2014 with Pineau De Re and will be hoping Abolitionist (10st 1lb) can give him a repeat success. Third in the 2017 Irish Grand National for Ellmarie Holden, the 11-year-old won a three-mile handicap hurdle with ease at Aintree in November and has not raced since.
It will be interesting to see how the final line-up pans out and which potential runners will be scratched over the next few declaration stages. Will Bristol De Mai actually go to Aintree and carry top weight or will he head to Cheltenham and by pass Aintree? We wait and see.