There’s not long left to go until the 2018 Grand National gets underway. And with the clock ticking on the Aintree spectacular, Blaklion has emerged as one of the favourite runners for the event.
His place at the front of the market is not without reason.
First and foremost, Nigel Twiston-Davies’ charge has shown time and time again that he has what it takes to stay the distance. The Grand National course at Aintree is a demanding trip.
With over 4m to travel and 30 fences to jump, plenty of previous favourites have failed to handle the long slog on Merseyside.
Blaklion shouldn’t face any of those problems.
The nine-year-old is a consistent runner over 3m+ and finished fourth in the 2017 edition.
He led strongly going into the 26th fence last year, but two mistakes cost the runner dear before he was eventually beaten into fourth.
The British-bred raider has yet to finish out of the frame since that defeat. He began the current season with a half-length defeat to Bristol De Mai in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby.
That was followed up one month later by an impressive 9l success in the Grade 3 Becher Handicap Chase at Aintree on the Grand National course.
It also doubled up as his first black-type victory since triumphing in the 2016 RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
Although that victory at Aintree was on heavy ground, he didn’t fare as well on the same surface at Haydock two months ago on his last appearance.
Blaklion was the best of the rest as mud-lark Yala Enki ran away with the contest in testing conditions by 57l.
Despite the defeat, that run should hold the son of Kayf Tara in good stead ahead of his tilt at the Grand National where he’ll hope to become the third winner for Twiston-Davies.
The Gloucestershire-based trainer has saddled two winners in Grand National history. He first tasted victory in 1998 with 7/1 favourite Earth Summit and then again in 2002 with 20/1 shot Bindaree.
In recent years he has had runners finish fourth (Blaklion, 2017), failed to finish (Double Ross, 2016), and 11th (Major Malarkey, 2013).
Blaklion is expected to go well for the 60-year-old as he bids to become only the sixth favourite to justify their position at the top of the market since 1983.
Recent Grand National trends also suggest that the nine-year-old has a fair chance.
Horses his age hold the joint-most National titles since 2005. Nine-year-olds have won four renewals since then, sharing the distinction alongside ten-year-olds, who also have four victories.
Should he land the Aintree prize he’ll have done so by carrying one of the top weights in the contest.
The bay-gelding is set to carry 11-9 over the 4m2f distance, making him the second heaviest competitor in the field.
Five of the race’s winners since 2009 have carried 11st or more. Many Clouds was the last to triumph with a weight of 11-9 or more when landing the 2015 renewal for Oliver Sherwood.
Prior to that, Red Rum won with 12st on his back in 1974.
Although it has not yet been decided which jockey will take the ride on one of the competition favourites, it will likely be one of Noel Fehily, Gavin Sheehan or Sam Twiston-Davies.
All three have taken the ride in the last 12 months.
All Odds and Markets correct as of date of publication