The National Hunt season is well underway and since the New Year many trainers having been putting their plans into action and plotting their routes to Aintree for the Grand National 2016 which will take place on Saturday, April 9th.
One big name being touted about is Silviniaco Conti from trainer Paul Nicholls. The ten year old, who also has an entry into the World Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, will likely be one of the highest rated horses to make the list.
On his current rating of 168 he looks set to carry one of the top weights when they are revealed on February 16th by the BHA Handicapper, Phil Smith. That shouldn’t pose too many problems for a horse that hasn’t run off less than 11st 7lb since 2012.
The 2015 fifth place finisher Shutthefrontdoor is also set to return to the Aintree fences but with the current weather playing havoc with Jonjo O’Neill’s plans, he may not get the preparation previously envisaged by the 2010 winning trainer.
That said, there is still plenty of time to get a couple of runs in him with O’Neill stating on his blog that Shutthefrontdoor “is not the smoothest horse in the world but he is good when he is right.”
I also expect to see a few familiar names make the list including the 2014 winner Pineau De Re. Connections have decided to bypass Cheltenham and concentrate on their Grand National chances instead and with Pineau on relatively good form it won’t be a surprise to see him put up a good show on the day.
While bookmakers may be offering ante post odds on Balthazar King making another appearance, and he may even get an entry, I don’t think we’ll be seeing him at the National again this year. A firm favourite among racing fans, it was a very scary moment when he went down last year and given the amount of work that has gone into his recuperation, it would be too much to send him back out there again.
Monbeg Dude is no stranger to the Aintree Grand National and looks set to be back for his third attempt at the title. He finished in 7th place in 2014, and improved on that last year when he placed third under jockey Liam Treadwell. A tendon injury has sidelined him since then but trainer Michael Scudamore is confident that he can get him ready and fit to take on the Aintree fences on April 9th.
Very surprisingly, Seabass could also be given an entry. He may be 13 years old now but there’s still plenty left in the old boy as proven by his third place finish at Leopardstown on January 17th. That was his fourth spin around the tracks this season and so far so good. His rating needs to go up a little more but that aside we may be welcoming him back to Aintree very soon.