Saint Are (Tom George), who finished a fine second to Many Clouds in the 2015 Randox Health Grand National, is all set for his fourth challenge at the world’s greatest chase, which takes place at Aintree on Saturday 18th April.
Run over 4 miles, two furlongs and 74 yards and 30 fences, the famous handicap chase offers total prize money of £1 million and is by far the richest Jump race staged outside of Japan.
11-year-old Saint Are ran his best race of the season so far when staying on strongly under top-weight of 11st 12lb to finish the head runner-up to Killala Quay in a veterans’ handicap chase over 3 miles at Doncaster on 22nd February.
Saint Are has a great record at the Randox Health Grand National Festival, having won the G1 Sefton Novices’ Hurdle back in 2011, while he also landed a Listed handicap chase over 3 miles and a furlong of the Mildmay Course on Grand National Day in 2012.
He has competed three times in the Randox Health Grand National, also finishing ninth to Auroras Encore in 2013 and being pulled up before the last fence in 2016.
Gloucestershire-based Tom George said: “It was a great run from Saint Are at Doncaster on Wednesday.
“It is coming into his time of year, as he loves the better ground. He was only beaten a head at Doncaster, under a big weight, which gets him back on track and spot on where we want to be.
“I did give him an entry in the Ultima Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival just to keep his options open – we needed to get a run into before Aintree and just had to have a back-up in case something happened at Doncaster.
“Obviously, I need to have a word with his owner (David Fox) but Aintree is our priority.
“The ground just went again in the Grand National last year. He is fine on good to soft but once it gets softer than that (the going was soft in the 2016 Grand National), he does start to struggle.”
George also has another intended Randox Health Grand National runner in Double Shuffle, who ran well yesterday when runner-up in the valuable BetBright Handicap Chase at Kempton Park.
He said: “I’m delighted with Double Shuffle.
“He made an uncharacteristic mistake three out and lost a bit of momentum, but he stayed on well afterwards.
“He is an improving horse and has 10st 6lb for the National. He will miss Cheltenham to concentrate on the Grand National.”
Currently heading the market is Vieux Lion Rouge (David Pipe) who won the Betfred Becher Chase over the Grand National course at Aintree on 3rd December and followed up by taking the Betfred National Trial at Haydock Park on 25th February by 3 and a quarter lengths from Blaklion (Nigel Twiston-Davies).
Sharing second-favouritism are last year’s second The Last Samuri (Kim Bailey) and One For Arthur (Lucinda Russell), impressive winner of the Classic Chase at Warwick in January.
The first scratchings deadline for the Randox Health Grand National is on Tuesday 28th February, details of which will be revealed on Wednesday 1st March.