Black Op has the form in the book at Cheltenham behind Santini and then Samcro, handles testing ground and should be the one to beat @ 9/4. On The Blind Side @ 15/8 could be anything and is still unexposed at this level having missed Cheltenham due to a minor muscle injury. If he handles the ground this could well be a cracker of a race. Western Ryder got his season back on track in the Supreme and like Lostintranslation, takes an intriguing step up in trip with neither forlorn hopes at decent prices. Momella and Kildisart should be thereabouts while Chosen Path could run a good race @ 28/1.
If Petit Mouchoir gets involved in a tussle up front with Shantou Rock, both could pay the price and set things up for a closer. Petit Mouchoir is the best horse in the race but tactics, as well as ground conditions may not be in his favour. Shantou Rock has some solid form to his name behind the likes of Cyrname and Sceau Royal and has a bit to find with Petit Mouchoir on the figures but has the ability to spoil things for the favourite. Lady Buttons, who is two wins from two starts over fences will handle the ground and the track and based on her defeat of Dusky Legend in November is a contender @ 15/2.
Thomas Patrick won well at Newbury last time but this is a big step up in grade for this improving six year old and it may be a bridge too far. Rocklander ran well in the Close Brothers Handicap at Cheltenham behind Mr Whittaker and should enjoy this return to further @ 8/1 with more improvement to come. Fifth in that race was Ibis Du Rheu who, if building on that run has to come into calculations while Oldgrangewood was never happy at Cheltenham and having run well at Aintree earlier in the season, has to come into consideration @ 11/1. Wakanda should be forgiven his run at Cheltenham and can go well here @ 16/1.
It is hard to look past Wholestone and Sam Spinner here with both likely to enjoy conditions and are clear on the ratings. Sam Spinner possibly did not take to Cheltenham in the Stayers’ Hurdle but he has form at Catterick so should enjoy the tight track at Aintree and will take some pegging back @ 13/8 with the possibility of more to come. Wholestone has improved in his last three runs and is now fulfilling his potential having finished a good third at Cheltenham behind Supasundae and Penhill. The only doubt is that he has struggled to win on this ground over three miles in this grade but it won’t be for the want of trying. The Worlds End won here last year and produced his best display yet at Cheltenham and may just be coming to the boil @ 8/1. Identity Thief ran well in the Champion Hurdle, keeping on well and on breeding, is worth a try at this trip and could go well @ 22/1.
The Grand National Shortlist plus our exclusive ratings
ANIBALE FLY – 170+
Won the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown in December before a staying on third in the Gold Cup behind Native River and Might Bite last time. Shapes like a stamina test will suit.
MILANSBAR – 166
Consistent type who won the Classic Chase at Warwick before good efforts in the Eider Chase and Midlands National. Will stay the distance and enjoy the ground but he has had four hard races already this season.
SEEYOUATMIDNIGHT – 165
Third in the Scottish National in 2016 before missing a year due to injury. Will go in the ground and is fit following his return last month but it remains to be seen whether he can stand up to the rigours of this race.
FINAL NUDGE – 164
Third in the Welsh National in December before finding his next two starts on the sharp side, the latest when slightly disappointing in the Kim Muir. Needs a real stamina test and should relish the four and a quarter miles on heavy ground.
TIGER ROLL – 163
Cheltenham cross-country winner who stays at least four miles and should be thereabouts providing he handles the ground.
THE LAST SAMURI – 162
Second in this race in 2016, goes well over these fences and will enjoy conditions.
BLAKLION – 159
Won the Becher Chase over these fences in December and was fourth in this race last year. Has every chance if his excursions at Haydock in February have not left a mark.
VIEUX LION ROUGE – 159
Seventh and sixth in the last two renewals of this race, will relish the ground and should go well.
TOTAL RECALL – 149+
Improved throughout the winter including winning the Ladbrokes Gold Cup before falling in the Cheltenham Gold Cup last time. Needs to recover from that and shoulder a fair weight here.
Quickened Clear’s Best Bets:
Rocklander – 3.40 Aintree – 1pt win @ 8/1
Rocklander has a progressive profile as a chaser, his defeat of Duke Des Champs at Newbury proving he handles testing ground followed by a good effort behind Mr Whittaker at Cheltenham which puts him in as a leading contender with the 8/1 a good bet.