Alvarado (9st 9lb) is entered once again this year in the £1-million Aintree spectacular on Saturday, April 8, but is unlikely to make the final field of 40 as he currently lies 87th in the handicap. However, O’Brien has a contender in the shape of Perfect Candidate (11st 4lb), a six-time winner over fences.
The 10-year-old recorded an impressive all-the-way victory last time out when taking a veterans’ handicap chase under top-weight of 11st 12lb at Exeter on February 12, when he came home five lengths clear of Whats Happening. The son of Winged Love also put up a very good performance earlier in the season when going down by the minimum distance of a nose to Theatre Guide in a G3 handicap chase at Cheltenham on December 9.
O’Brien said today: “Perfect Candidate will probably be going straight to the Randox Health Grand National. He holds an entry in the Cheltenham Gold Cup but is very unlikely to run there.
“The horse is in great form. He needed to win at Exeter last time to persuade us to go to Aintree. He is the right age (10) for Aintree and has the right profile.
“He is slightly higher in the handicap than we would have liked – he is 156 whereas we would have preferred to be on 150.
“If he takes to Aintree, fingers crossed, hopefully he will give us a run for our money. We will just keep him fresh and maybe look at giving him a racecourse gallop before Aintree, which we did with Alvarado.”
Perfect Candidate is a 50/1 chance for the Randox Health Grand National with Betway, official betting partner of the Randox Health Grand National Festival.
Next week Cheltenham stages The Festival (Tuesday, March 14 to Friday, March 17) which could attract the participation of a number of leading Randox Health Grand National hopefuls.
Tuesday’s Ultima Handicap Chase could see Pleasant Company (Willie Mullins), The Young Master (Neil Mulholland), Junction Fourteen (Emma Lavelle), Measureofmydreams (Noel Meade), La Vaticane (David Pipe), Doctor Harper (David Pipe) and Hadrian’s Approach (Nicky Henderson) put their Aintree credentials on the line.
The last horse to win the Ultima Handicap Chase and go on to take the Randox Health Grand National was Seagram in 1991, while the most recent horse to compete in the Cheltenham contest before scoring at Aintree was Bindaree in 2002, who was seventh at The Festival before his Grand National victory.
Golden Miller (1934) is famously the only horse to win both the Cheltenham Gold Cup and Grand National in the same season.
This year Randox Health Grand National entries Blaklion (Nigel Twiston-Davies), Lord Windermere (Jim Culloty), Minella Rocco (Jonjo O’Neill), More Of That (Jonjo O’Neill), Road To Riches (Noel Meade), Roi Des Francs (Gordon Elliot), Saphir Du Rheu (Paul Nicholls) and Sausalito Sunrise (Philip Hobbs) are all still currently engaged in the Timico-sponsored highlight on the final day of The Festival, Friday, March 17.
There could also be some Aintree pointers in Ireland on Sunday, with Ucello Conti (Gordon Elliott) and Thunder And Roses (Mouse Morris) featuring among 19 runners in the Leinster National at Naas.
Currently heading the market for the Randox Health Grand National at 11/1 with Betway is Vieux Lion Rouge (David Pipe), who has already scored over the famous fences at Aintree this season in the Betfred Becher Chase in December. The eight-year-old was also successful on his latest appearance in the Betfred Grand National Trial at Haydock Park on February 18.
Definitly Red (Brian Ellison) is now the 14/1 second favourite with Betway following his impressive victory in the Grimthorpe Handicap Chase at Doncaster on March 4, when he came home 14 lengths clear of last year’s Aintree runner-up The Last Samuri (Kim Bailey, 16/1).
The next scatchings deadline for the Randox Health Grand National is on Tuesday, March 21. Run over four miles, two furlongs and 74 yards, the Randox Health Grand National is by far the richest Jump race run in Britain with a total prize fund of £1 million.
Randox Health Grand National – Betway bet:
11/1 Vieux Lion Rouge
14/1 Definitly Red
16/1 Blaklion, One For Arthur, The Last Samuri
20/1 The Young Master, Ucello Conti
25/1 Carlingford Lough, Foxrock, More Of That, Pleasant Company
33/1 Caroles Destrier, Cause Of Causes, Le Mercurey, Minella Rocco, Rogue Angel, Tenor Nivernais, Thunder And Roses, Vicente
GRAND NATIONAL SCHOOLING FENCES
Special Grand National schooling fences, located at four venues in Britain and Ireland, are being built in these days. Find out more here.