One of the first of many “Nationals” for the new season and with three miles three furlongs awaiting the runners around this unique figure of eight course, fans both on track and watching on television are in for a bit of a treat. No favourites have won in the last five years so punters beware, though as we will all have noticed, Colin Tizzard is just going from strength to strength season after season and he has entered Fergal Mael Duin (6/1 Each Way) here as he looks to build on his recent win at this track over two miles five furlongs with this step up in trip and class. Well backed that day and sent off the 5/2 favourite he won with a bit in hand despite jumping right throughout the contest, and although he has been put up five pounds this afternoon it was his first run in close to ten months and with improvement assured he looks solid each way value.
Welsh trainer Peter Bowen likes winning races like these and he has entered Buachaill Alainn (11/1) here and instantly booked his son Sean this ride this afternoon. Last time out at Sedgefield he tried three miles three furlongs for the first time when he ran away from Five In A Row to score by seven lengths in the Durham National last month, and put up eight pounds for that it will be interesting to see how he gets on this afternoon down in Sussex though a place may be the best he can hope for.
Cloudy Copper (8/1) is another to consider, though let’s not get too carried away after the trainer had his first winner if November yesterday afternoon. Now a nine-year-old, he saw off As De fer at Ffos Las over three miles last time out in April on soft ground though he has been put up five pounds and won’t find his new weigtht so easy to carry first time out.
Meanwhile. Kerry Lee is getting a good reputation with her staying chasers and she has Russe Blanc (16/1) in here who has some decent form if you forgive and forget his last two runs when he unseated at Newcastle in the Eider chase and then pulled up at Fairyhouse in the Irish Grand National. Prior to that he had won by three and three quarter lengths at Chepstow over this sort of trip and although higher in the weights now, he may well do even better fresh and cannot be confidently written off.
As we have said in most races you can never confidently write off Paul Nicholls at present and he has an interesting option in Aerial (9/1) engaged here as he makes his comeback following a fall when last seen at Perth in June 2015. It seems safe to assume he will have been extensively schooled at a yard that leaves no stone unturned to find winners. His race record of four wins four seconds and a third from fourteen starts reads well enough and as he has won off a rating of 149 he is potentially thrown in here off of 127 and could be the surprise package if they can get him back to anything like his best that is.
Lastly, Golanova (14/1) sneaks in at the bottom of the handicap but local trainer Gary Moore has a 15% strike rate here over the years and is in good form of late with a 26% strike rate recently which is pretty impressive. As for the horse, he has won three of his seventeen starts over fences and placed in five others including a second last time out at Kempton, beaten two lengths by Best Boy Barney over three miles. He runs off two pounds higher than his best ever winning mark but that doesn’t make life impossible and as an outsider to consider each way he deserves his place on any short list.