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Leading Aintree contender Blaklion spearheads Grand National entry

Wed 31 Jan 2018

Ante-post favourite Blaklion features among 105 entries for the Randox Health Grand National at Aintree on April 14.

The 2016 RSA Chase hero was the market leader for last year's renewal as an eight-year-old and was far from disgraced in finishing fourth behind One For Arthur.

Blaklion has taken his game to another level this season, filling the runner-up spot behind stablemate Bristol De Mai in the Charlie Hall at Wetherby before dominating his rivals in the Becher Chase over the National fences in December.

He is the clear 10-1 favourite to provide trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies with a third National success following the victories of Earth Summit (1998) and Bindaree (2002).

Definitly Red was pulled up when well fancied last April after his saddle slipped. Brian Ellison's charge appears a major contender once more after running out an impressive winner of the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham on Saturday - although he will first return to Prestbury Park for the Gold Cup in March.

Kim Bailey's 2016 Grand National runner-up The Last Samuri is prominent in the market once again.

A 40-strong Irish representation is headed by the Willie Mullins-trained Total Recall. Mullins, who has 10 entries, trained Hedgehunter to claim a popular National success in 2005.

Abolitionist was third in last season's Irish Grand National when trained by Ellmarie Holden, and has since being snapped up by Dr Richard Newland, who claimed National glory with Pineau De Re in 2014.

Newland said: "Abolitionist is coming back from an injury. We got him in the autumn and then he had an issue with a stress fracture.

"He is on the way back now and doing really nicely. He is a nice horse who shows a good attitude and we are pleased to have him.

"We are stepping up his work and hope to have him on the track towards the end of February. Then all being well, he will go on to Aintree for the Grand National.

"He could have a spin over hurdles at Ascot on February 17 or there is a veterans' chase at Doncaster on February 21.

"The rules have changed, so he has to run in a chase this season to be qualified. If he starts off over hurdles, then he would run again over fences in March."

Colin Tizzard has three entries in Sizing Codelco, The Dutchman, a 13-length winner of the Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock earlier this month, and Third Intention.

Joe Tizzard, assistant to his father, said: "The Dutchman would have to be our leading hope after his last run at Haydock. He will head back up there in three weeks for the Grand National Trial and go from there.

"He has gone up 13lb to 148, so he should get a run in the National. It looks like he will stay that sort of trip and he jumps nicely.

"It was a strong run first time out at Haydock (second behind Sam Spinner in the Betfair Stayers' Handicap) and we possibly went back to the well too quickly at Cheltenham with him. He was hugely impressive at Haydock last time."

The Grand National weights will be unveiled on the evening of Tuesday, February 13, during a special ceremony at BAFTA in London's West End.

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