With a larger gap between the Cheltenham and Aintree Festivals this year there will be plenty of noteworthy horses winging their way over to Merseyside to contest their feature races.

There will also be horses entered who for one reason or another missed Cheltenham and will be completely fresh and raring to go when they arrive at Aintree.

Let’s take a look at some of those Aintree hopefuls - all of whom have Grand National aspirations.

Minella Rocco

Last year's Gold Cup runner-up was the most high-profile runner to miss this year's Festival due to the ground and it could easily play into his strengths given his excellent spring record.

Minella Rocco has now been burdened with top-weight of 11st 10lb from a handicap mark of 162 after the latest Grand National confirmation stage when Gold Cup participants Definitely Red, Edwulf and Outlander were taken out.

His trainer, Jonjo O’Neill, is rather keen on the eight-year-olds prospects in the race. Speaking at the recent Aintree lunch, O’Neill said: “I’ve no concerns about him on the jumping front.”

“I think it will be ideal for him, a big galloping track with wide open spaces. The Canal Turn might b a bit sharp that will require a few more strides as he is a big old horse. I’m really looking forward to bringing him here.

“He’s definitely at least 17 hands, and I know this because when you put a saddle on him he is a fair old horse.

“He’d be a classier horse than Don’t Push It, who would never have been second in the Gold Cup.

“He’d have a better attitude, too, than Don’t Push It and will handle the day quite well. Don’t Push It handled it quite well, but he was a bit of a nutter at home but this fella is a lovely horse. “

Minella Rocco will be bidding to become the first horse to win the marathon contest on his first run following a wind operation.

“He’s had everything done,” he added.

“We have done his palette since Leopardstown so hopefully that will help him a bit more. He’s in great form and working well. We were looking forward to going to Cheltenham but there was no point on that heavy ground.”

The J.P McManus owned gelding is a general 16/1 chance to win the National.


Tiger Roll, Causes Of Causes, The Last Samuri

Gordon Elliott’s Tiger Roll burst into to forefront of the Grand National betting after an emphatic win the Cross Country Chase at The Festival.

It was Tiger Roll’s third Festival victory and until then he had not really been considered as one of Elliott’s leading hopes for the Grand National.

Elliott, who trained Silver Birch to win the National in 2007, said about the top-priced 14/1 chance for Aintree: "Tiger Roll has come out of Cheltenham well and the Grand National is now the plan for him."

Cause Of Causes could not repeat last year's win in the Cross Country on the rain-softened ground and was pulled up by his rider Jamie Codd. He will be heading to Aintree to try and go one better then when he finished runner-up to One For Arthur twelve months ago.

Elliott said after the race: "Jamie (Codd) said he was flat out. I was worried about the ground and it never happened today. He is a bit sore so we will see how he is."

Speaking about the third home in the Cross Country, The Last Samuri, who is a best-priced 16/1 shot for the Grand National this time, trainer Kim Bailey said: "I am delighted - it was always going to be a National prep.

"It is a bit different to carrying top-weight in a handicap."

The Last Samuri didn't return back into Cheltenham’s winner's enclosure that afternoon and Bailey explained: "The horse always gets very tired afterwards. He is a horse that is marked out by the vets in all of his races.

"The vets are very happy with him - I am quite used to it now.”



The Nigel Twiston-Davies trained Blaklion bypassed the Cheltenham Gold Cup in order to make a full recovery from his Haydock exploits and to also take in a wind operation.

Earlier this season Blaklion finished runner-up in the Charlie Hall Chase and won the Becher Chase and has retained his position at the head of the Grand National market, despite that crushing defeat at Haydock last month.

Twiston-Davies reported Last week: "He's had soft cauterisation of his palate, which is a very minor one. We gave him a galloping scope and that's what came up."

He added: "It was always the plan to miss Cheltenham and all is going well. He's in great form."

The nine-year-old, out of Kayf Tara, can still be backed at 12/1 for the Aintree showpiece.


Total Recall

Willie Mullins has confirmed that Total Recall is an intended runner in the Grand National despite coming down three fences from home in the Gold Cup.

Total Recall won his first three races after joining Mullins from the retired Sandra Hughes, landing the Munster National at Limerick, the “Hennessy” at Newbury and a handicap hurdle at the inaugural Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown.

Total Recall, who will shoulder 11st 4lb, is vying for favouritism with Blaklion.


Anibale Fly

This season’s Gold Cup third Anibale Fly is entered in the National and has been backed down to odds of 16/1 for the Aintree marathon but his actual participation is far from assured.

Connections are likely to make a decision in the next few days as to whether the eight-year-old will return to English shores or stay at home for the Irish equivalent.

Frank Berry, racing manager to owner JP McManus, has confirmed the Tony Martin-trained horse has a couple of options they need to mull over.

"He's come out of the Gold Cup very well. He ran very well and stayed on nicely," said Berry.

"We'll see how he is and we'll make a decision early in the week here where he's going.

"He has the two options and he'll definitely go for one or the other."


*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*

About the Author
Steve Mullington

Steven is a sports and horseracing enthusiast and is a member of the Horseracing Writers and Photographers Association (HWPA) in the United Kingdom.

He is a regular visitor to Paris Longchamp for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe and a lifelong fan of the Aintree Grand National, a subject he writes about 52 weeks of the year. Last year he reached the impressive milestone of attending the last 25 renewals of the Grand National.