NICK ALEXANDER says ground conditions will be key to Northern challenger Lake View Lad’s chances in the Randox Grand National.
The grey was pulled up in the 2019 renewal, the last time the race was staged, after reportedly being unsuited by the good to soft ground.
Conditions are expected to be similar on Merseyside this Saturday when the world’s famous race will be staged without crowds for the first time in its history.
However Lake View Lad, whose past wins include the 2018 Rowland Meyrick Chase at Wetherby, is an intended winner for owner Trevor Hemmings who is already a three-time winner of the race that means more to him than any other.
Now 11, the grey actually won the Many Clouds Chase earlier in the season at Aintree under champion jockey Brian Hughes who is expected to ride the horse in the National as his title tussle with Harry Skelton goes down to the wire.
Most recently, he was a well-beaten fifth to the Hemmings-owned Cloth Cap, the ante-post favourite for the National, at Kelso last month.
“He’s in good form and it’s great to have him going there in good heart,” reports Alexander who trains in Fife, Scotland.
“He’s at an age where he has to take his chance. I don’t think he was quite himself at Kelso and he will be better in a handicap.
“If we get wet weather between now and the National, I can see him running a huge race. I can’t see him running a huge race on good ground. Brian Hughes is riding him, I think.”
Lake View Lad is due to be one of just three Northern-trained contenders in the 40-horse field, the others being Brian Ellison’s Definitly Red, the mount of Henry Brooke, and Takingrisks for trainer Nicky Richards and jockey Sean Quinlan.
The clear favourite is the aforementioned Cloth Cap for trainer Jonjo O’Neill and the ever popular Tom Scudamore whose late grandfather Michael won the race on Oxo.
However the well-backed Secret Reprieve, the Welsh Grand National winner, is 43rd and needs three horses to pull out between now, and Friday’s final cut-off at 1pm, to make the race.
There is a strong Irish contingent with the likes of Ted Walsh’s Any Second Now, Henry de Bromhead’s Minella Times, the expected mount of the all-conquering Rachael Blackmore, and Willie Mullins’ 2019 Irish National hero Burrows Saint.
Bristol De Mai is set to carry top-weight for Nigel Twiston-Davies who is chasing a third win in the race, with Yala Enki, now trained by Paul Nicholls, set to be the ride of Bryony Frost.
Although all of Yala Enki’s 11 career victories have been achieved with either soft or heavy as the main going description, Frost is hopeful that her mount can make amends for a first fence fall in last December’s Becher Chase over the National course.
“The horses at Paul’s are in great order,” she said.
“It was not ideal falling at the first in the Becher but we have done a lot of practice at home and we’ve let him see replica Grand National fences since that day.
“His form has come on soft as he stays very well but I actually think he jumps better off the better ground.
“I’ve just got to get him out there galloping and at the end of the day a race like that is all about luck.”
Meanwhile the 2019 Welsh National hero Potters Corner, the mount of teenager Jack Tudor, one of the weighing room’s rising stars, will be schooled over National-type fences.
“He’s in good form and did a lovely piece of work last week, so we’re very excited. His season has been geared towards the Grand National, so fingers crossed,” said trainer Christian Williams who rode Royal Auclair to finish second to the Hemmings-owned Hedgehunter, and the mercurial Ruby Walsh, in 2005.
“It was all about the Welsh National for the whole of last season and it’s very much Aintree all of this season, and schooling him over a (Grand National style) fence is the last thing.
“With that type of horse he’s so laid back that it’ll probably do him good to go on a lorry and have a day out. We did it before the Welsh National and went to Henrietta Knight’s (former trainer) two days before, so we know it doesn’t inconvenience him.”
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