A trip up north is just the prep for Grand National success

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Warming up for a crack at the Grand National is all about have the perfect prep race, and looking at past trends it reveals that a recent day out up north is the just the ticket to boost your Aintree chances.

Many punters will look to avoid horses that have strutted their stuff at the Cheltenham Festival, with concerns regarding recovery time.

However with an extra week between the Prestbury Park extravaganza and the National, those doubts can be extinguished.

While at least three weeks looks to be the bare minimum break for a shot at the big staying contest, a run in recent months is vital.

No horse has taken the stamina sapping marathon without a prep run in the months of February or March in the last 34 years.

Ironically enough, two of the five in the guaranteed 40 to fall down on this stat are situated at the head of the market in Shutthefrontdoor (7/1) and Balthazar King (10/1).

But the location of that final run before lining up at Aintree seems to hold some sway too.

While many will point to the added time between Cheltenham and the race to say that runners at the Festival boast stronger chances this year than normal, but it does pay to go further north to find the winner.

Four victors in the race took in Cheltenham in the past two decades, but an even more impressive nine warmed up in the north.

The likes of Kelso (two of the last four victors) and Haydock (three of the last 14) look top places to find winners, especially considering the former has three race days in February and the latter just two, not bad when you consider Cheltenham holds four.

So then, whose last run looks likely to set them up for a big race in this year’s renewal?

While there are 11 that tick the box of a run in the northern counties in the past couple of months, only two (of the guaranteed 40) frequented the two aforementioned tracks that have proved handy for separating the wheat from the chaff.

And potentially lucky for us, they are both very big prices.

Carlito Brigante (50/1) has put behind him the slump that followed his Neptune Novices’ Hurdle win to come good of late, with a third placed finish at Kelso last time out.

He hasn’t finished outside of the first three in the past 12 months, and has turned a corner since joining Karen McLintock’s yard; he could yet reach the top again.

Another dour stayer that has warmed up in the right way is Gas Line Boy (66/1).

The winner of two stamina tests this year, he looks well weighted to stay on all the way on Merseyside.

And after finishing a respectable fourth in a trial for this race at Haydock, he could be one to continue the nearby track’s solid record of producing Grand National winners.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Ben Stones

Ladbrokes News’ equine expert, Ben likes nothing more than studying the form to pick out a winner or two for our readers. A Journalism and Media Studies graduate from the University of Winchester, Ben has previously written for a number of football and racing blogs and websites, as well as contributing to the sports pages of his home-town newspaper.