Bailey hunting National glory
A total of 73 horses remain in the John Smith's Grand National, and trainer Kim Bailey thinks The Rainbow Hunter could run well.
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Kim Bailey, who landed the 1990 John Smith's Grand National with Mr Frisk, believes a return to better ground will suit The Rainbow Hunter when he lines up in the world's most famous chase at Aintree.
The progressive nine-year-old, one of 73 horses going forward for the £975,000 Aintree contest following the first scratchings' deadline entered the Grand National picture with a decisive half-length victory over Loch Ba in a three-mile handicap chase at Ascot in November.
The second, third and fourth have all won competitive handicaps since but The Rainbow Hunter was pulled up in heavy ground at Chepstow in December.
However, he returned to form after a short break when fourth in a Listed handicap chase at Ascot in February, behind fellow Aintree hopefuls Cappa Bleu and Saint Are.
Bailey revealed: "The Rainbow Hunter is still on course for the John Smith's Grand National. He came out of his run at Ascot very well and I think he will improve for that.
"He wants good ground - it was very gluey at Ascot. He found it hard to jump out of that ground because he is not very big and finds it quite difficult. He will go on soft but not when the going is like that.
"He seems to stay well and his size wouldn't concern me around Aintree because I ran Docklands Express around there and he was smaller. It all depends on how they jump.
"I'm hoping there is more to come from him because he seems to be improving and I think the ground will make a big difference.
"He is in at Cheltenham but I have not made a decision about whether or not he runs there first."
Donald McCain enjoyed a memorable victory in the 2011 National will Ballabriggs, and the 12-year-old is among the Cheshire handler's four remaining entries for this year's renewal.
McCain said: "Everything has gone smoothly with Ballabriggs' preparation this time - we are very happy with him. He will complete his preparation in the same Kelso event he has run in for the last two years.
"He is 12 years old but Amberleigh House won it at 12. Ballabriggs is an Aintree horse - he likes the place."
McCain is also responsible for the enigmatic but highly talented Weird Al and progressive nine-year-old Across The Bay, who captured a Grade Two hurdle over three miles at Haydock last time, while Cloudy Lane is more likely to miss the race to run in the John Smith's Fox Hunters' on the first day of the meeting.
"Weird Al was running a nice race last year when he fell at the fourth last," continued McCain. "His form has been disappointing this season but he is a little bit that way. He seemed to be taking to Aintree quite well last year.
"It was slightly unusual that Across The Bay's last race was over hurdles but he won a Grade Two at Haydock. He stays, he jumps and is a young and improving horse, who is going the right way. If he took to the place, he could run a massive race."
Irish champion trainer Willie Mullins has clarified his running plans for the Aintree showpiece, with On His Own heading his four remaining entries.
The lightly-raced nine-year-old was travelling strongly when coming down at Becher's Brook on the second circuit last year but returned to action this term with a comfortable success in the Grade Two Boyne Hurdle at Navan to see his National odds slashed.
Gordon Elliott captured the race in 2007 with Silver Birch and has six contenders going forward headlined by Chicago Grey and Roi Du Mee.
Chicago Grey completed his preparation for Aintree with a smooth success in the Grade Two Red Mills Chase at Navan, while Roi Du Mee lowered the colours of leading fancy Prince De Beauchene in the Grade Two Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse.
Seabass, who ran an excellent race to finish third in last season's National, came home third under Katie Walsh with another Aintree aspirant Rare Bob shaping nicely in fourth for trainer Dessie Hughes.
David Bridgwater's Wyck Hill, recently purchased by leading Irish owner JP McManus, failed to enhance his credentials in the Grade Three Racing Plus Chase at Kempton Park but Quinz, trained by Philip Hobbs, and Nicky Henderson's Roberto Goldback ran eye-catching races to finish fourth and fifth respectively.
Call The Police is one of 11 scratchings, with the injured Tidal Bay taken out as expected.
More John Smith's Grand National clues could be uncovered this weekend with the six-day entries for the Grimthorpe Handicap Chase at Doncaster and Listed Premier Chase at Kelso featuring a number of Aintree contenders.
Champion trainer Paul Nicholls is hoping to send Betfred Becher Handicap Chase runner-up Join Together and Sir Alex Ferguson's Harry The Viking to Doncaster, where they could clash with The Package, Calgary Bayand Mr Moonshine, who all hold John Smith's Grand National entries.