A total of 95 horses go forward for the 2017 Randox Health Grand National following the first scratchings’ deadline, details of which have been revealed.
Staged at Aintree on Saturday 8th April, the famous handicap chase offers total prize money of £1 million and is by far the richest Jump race globally staged outside of Japan. It is run over 4 miles, 2 furlongs and 74 yards and 30 fences.
Heading the market is Vieux Lion Rouge (10st 11lb, David Pipe), who won the Betfred Becher Chase over the course in December before cementing his credentials even further when landing the Betfred Grand National Trial at Haydock Park on 18th February, coming home home three and a quarter lengths clear of Blaklion (Nigel Twiston-Davies), who is one of three favourites with Betway.
Also on the mark is One For Arthur (10st 10lb, Lucina Russell), bidding to become only the second Scottish-trained winner of the Randox Health Grand National after Rubstic (1979) and last seen out when the impressive six-length winner of the Betfred Classic Chase at Warwick on 14th January.
Last year’s runner-up The Last Samuri (11st 9lb, Kim Bailey) is set to complete his Randox Health Grand National preparation in the Grimthorpe Handicap Chase at Doncaster on Saturday 4th March, a race he won last season prior to his excellent effort at Aintree.
Also entered in the Doncaster contest are fellow Randox Health Grand National entries Definitly Red (10st 11lb, Brian Ellison), Vivaldi Collonges (10st 10lb, Paul Nicholls), Junction Fourteen (10st 10lb, Emma Lavelle) and Knock House (10st 3lb, Donald McCain).
Junction Fourteen was last seen out when runner-up in a valuable G3 handicap chase over 3 miles at Ascot on 29th October. The eight-year-old, who is owned by Martin St Quinton and Tim Syder, landed the G2 Future Stars Novices’ Chase at Wincanton in 2015 and was also successful on the final day of last season when taking the Josh Gifford Novices’ Handicap Chase at Sandown Park.
Lavelle, who is based at Ogbourne Maizey in Wiltshire, commented: “Depending how Junction Fourteen works this week, we will see whether he is straight enough to go to Doncaster. If he doesn’t run in the Grimthorpe, we will take him to Newbury for a racecourse gallop and then possibly run at the Cheltenham Festival (where Junction Fourteen holds an entry in the Ultima Handicap Chase on 14th March).
“I was happy enough with the rating he was allotted for the Randox Health Grand National, he will be carrying a lot less than he has been in his races and we are looking forward to it. He is a horse that travels and loves his jumping. He is also a horse that loves his food! That is why we just need to see how straight he is before deciding where he runs next.
“He has run all right on soft ground but prefers good or good to soft ground.”
Junction Fourteen has yet to win over further than an extended 2 miles and six furlongs over fences, although his trainer believes that he can be effective over further.
Lavelle continued: “This year when he was up against the big boys over 2 and a half miles, he just wasn’t quick enough but there was no doubt he kept going at Ascot over 3 miles and we think he has a chance of staying at Aintree.
“You never know until you run them as it is an extended distance but I don’t think it is the case that we will be going there thinking he is a very doubtful stayer.
“Fingers crossed we can make the line-up – it is a case of both work and cotton wool in the build-up.”
The last Randox Health Grand National winner to have previously run in the Grimthorpe Handicap Chase before going on to score at Aintree in the same season was Amberleigh House in 2004. Amberleigh House was fifth in the Doncaster race ahead of his famous Grand National success for the late Ginger McCain.
Randox Health Grand National clues could also come on Saturday in the Listed Premier Chase at Kelso. Definitly Red and Vivaldi Collonges are also entered in the contest at the Scottish venue along with recent impressive Ascot winner Tenor Nivernais (11st, Venetia Williams) and Le Mercurey (10st 13lb, Paul Nicholls).
There are 26 Irish-trained contenders remaining, including Carlingford Lough(11st 10lb, John Kiely), a five-time G1 winner who is now at the top of the handicap. Also going forward for Ireland is last year’s sixth Ucello Conti (10st 11lb, Gordon Elliott IRE) who has been well-supported in the ante-post market, plus recent Bobbyjo Chase scorer Pleasant Company (Willie Mullins, 10st 11lb).
The next acceptance stage for the Randox Health Grand National is on Tuesday 21st March. A maximum of 40 horses can line up in the 2017 Randox Health Grand National.