Beau selected at Haydock
Expect it hock deep at Haydock Park on Saturday as the Merseyside venue stages its ever-popular Grand National Trial.
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During the 1990s, its roll of honour included some serious horses including 1991 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, Cool Ground, and Grand National winners Party Politics and Master Oats.
Admittedly the big-race winners have been less forthcoming in recent years, although the race has had its own standing dish in Silver By Nature.
Lucinda Russell's grey hasn't been seen on the racecourse since completing the 2011 Grand National and it will be some training performance for him to take a third renewal of this prize.
If the recent statistics are any guide though, his age shouldn't be a barrier as Rambling Minster (2009), Forest Gunner (2005) and Twin Oaks (1991) all managed to win the race as 11-year-olds.
Giles Cross is one year younger and despite his gritty victory last season, Victor Dartnall's inmate comes into this year's renewal with questions to answer.
Pulled up at Aintree and Chepstow on his last two starts, he's lightly raced in terms of the number of races he has taken part in, though its worth remembering that a number of those contests have seen his physical and mental constitution tested to the limit.
Teaforthree was considered by many to be something of a handicap snip at Chepstow in the Welsh National and the Rebecca Curtis-trained eight-year-old has to shoulder an additional 7lb for his labours in that showpiece.
But for Monbeg Dude, he would have been a wide-margin winner of that race and they are scheduled to clash again here.
Seven of the last 10 renewals have gone to horses carrying 11st or less and in this bracket, there are currently a number of very live performers.
Well Refreshed has carried all before him for the Gary Moore stable having commenced his life in handicaps off a mark of 100 in November. The handicapper has given him a hike of some 29lb for his three victories but will it be enough to stop him?
Venetia Williams was set to saddle an improving sort in Katenko but she has elected to bypass this race (waiting another seven days for Kempton's Racing Plus Chase) and the hint should be taken for stablemate RIGADIN DE BEAUCHENE.
A half-brother to 2008 winner, Miko De Beauchene, the nine-year-old enjoys a hefty pull at the weights with Well Refreshed from their Lingfield meeting, and he booked his place for this contest with a convincing success at Warwick in the Betfred Classic.
Sue Smith knows how to win this race having trained the ill-fated The Last Fling to victory for leading Northern owner, Trevor Hemmings, and despite the lack of recent winning form among her pair of entrants, it would be folly to rule Auroras Encore out of the places at juicy odds.
His recent form has been nothing to write home about, but its worth noting that he finished second in the Scottish National off a 7lb higher mark last April, and he is also a previous winner at the course.
The trainer is yet to saddle a winner at Haydock this season but those that followed Smith last term will have seen a level £1 stakes profit of £14.75 on her runners at the track
With course form counting for plenty, I wouldn't be surprised to see some interest in Tommy Whittle Chase winner, Cannington Brook.
Colin Tizzard has enjoyed phenomenal success with his chasers given the firepower at his disposal and his charge didn't do a great deal wrong behind Carruthers at Ffos Las in the West Wales National.
But Rigadin De Beauchene is still improving, has the stamina for this attritional contest, and gets the vote at a best price of 11/2.