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Countdown to the 2018 Randox Health Grand National

With a little over four months to go, the countdown has started for the 2018 renewal of the £1-million Randox Health Grand National, run at Aintree on Saturday, April 14.

Action over the famous Grand National fences at Aintree returns on Saturday, December 9, Becher Chase Day, which features both the £145,000 Randox Health Becher Chase and the £70,000 188bet.co.uk Grand Sefton Chase.

Below we look at six leading contenders for the 2018 Randox Health Grand National.

BLAKLION – Nigel Twiston-Davies

Finished a fine fourth to One For Arthur in the 2017 Randox Health Grand National on his first attempt in the famous contest. From the yard of Nigel Twiston-Davies, the only current trainer to have saddled two Grand National winners, he was a fine second on his comeback in the G2 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby on November 4, when beaten by Bristol De Mai who franked the form in no uncertain terms when galloping away with the G1 Betfair Chase at Haydock Park on November 25.

NATIVE RIVER – Colin Tizzard

He enjoyed a fantastic time last season, winning the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury and the Welsh National under top-weight at Chepstow before finishing third in the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup. Yet to run this season, he is being aimed at the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup again and trainer Colin Tizzard has also said the top-class chaser will have a Randox Health Grand National entry.

VICENTE – Paul Nicholls

Has proven stamina, having won the last two renewals of the Scottish Grand National at Ayr and shaped well on his comeback when a close second at Cheltenham on November 18. He runs in the colours of Trevor Hemmings, who is seeking a record-breaking fourth Grand National victory following Hedgehunter, Ballabriggs and Many Clouds.

CAUSE OF CAUSES – Gordon Elliott IRE

A tremendous performer over the past few years, with three consecutive wins at the Cheltenham Festival. He contested his first Randox Health Grand National in 2015, finishing eighth, and put up a great performance to take second behind One For Arthur in the 2017 renewal. Owned the ever-enthusiastic by J P McManus, he looks set to mount another Aintree challenge in 2018.

MINELLA ROCCO – Jonjo O’Neill

Has developed into a high-class stayer over fences, putting up a tremendous performance to finish second in the 2017 Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup. He has not shown much sparkle in two outings so far this season, but trainer Jonjo O’Neill said in a stable visit “…for me he’s a National horse, a good ‘lepper’ over big fences on a flat track. That’s his race and there’s month between Cheltenham and Aintree this season” and the talented performer is sure to be primed come April.

OUR DUKE – Jessica Harrington IRE

Lightly-raced chaser who enjoyed his biggest success in the 2017 Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse. In the last 20 years both Bobbyjo and Numbersixvalverde have followed up on their Fairyhouse success by scoring at Aintree the following season and Our Duke, who will an eight-year-old in 2018, is an interesting contender. He disappointed on comeback at Down Royal, but has subsequently undergone back surgery and set to return in the New Year.