Dan Skelton previews his Saturday runners at Aintree including Blaklion in the Grand National
We will be involved in six of the seven races on Grand National day, including the big one, and start with two in the first race, Ashtown Lad and Tommy Rapper (13:45).
Ashtown Lad had been a progressive novice until he had a couple of hiccups. This will be his first run after a wind op. The trip and the track are perfect. We have just got to get him back to the form we saw from him in the autumn. He is very much next year’s chaser but he does have a chance in a race novices have a fair record in.
Tommy Rapper was second in it a couple of years ago. He’s in good form. He didn’t stay in the Midlands National, getting halfway to the last, then stopping quickly. His stamina completely cut out.
My Drogo (14:25) runs in the Mersey Novices’ Hurdle. We missed Cheltenham deliberately. I’ve been very happy with how he has been going and how he looks. This has been the plan all season so I am looking forward to him, although Ballyadam comes over from Ireland to complicate things.
We have total respect for Shishkin and are running Longhouse Sale (15:00) as he is very high in the handicap. He would have very little chance off that mark so we decided to run him in a novice while there is a chance too. Hopefully he can pick up some crumbs.
Roksana (15:35) has been a remarkable mare and I think she ran really well at Cheltenham in a race that turned into a sprint she couldn’t win. She didn’t have a hard race that day. Three miles is obviously her trip now – she will never run at three miles again.
I’ve been happy with her since. She gets 7lb and has finished second in this before. We almost feel like she has unfinished business at Aintree where she has been runner-up in two Grade 1 races. I am really excited about running her.
Spiritofthegames (16:15) is tremendously consistent. He ran well at Cheltenham in the Pertemps. This race, three miles on a flat track over fences, is something we have yet to try. He did try three miles on soft ground at Wetherby but didn’t quite stay but I think a flat track on nice ground could be what he wants. If you don’t try different things you just get the same result.
Blaklion (17:15) runs in the National. He just snuck in as number 40. We have trained him since the turn of the year hoping he would get in. He ran okay at Warwick over two and a half miles, then ran okay again under a big weight at Newcastle.
He has needed those runs. We have really put him out there – I think he ran twice within ten to 12 days – to get some match practice. I have done as much as I can with him. He’s an older horse that takes a lot of stoking.
It won’t be lack of fitness that beats him. He has 10st 2lb, has won round the track before but he isn’t getting any younger. I wish we could take two years off him, but we can’t.
It looks a great race. It’s a privilege to be involved in the National and hopefully our horse runs creditably and there is a good story afterwards as racing thrives off the back of successful Grand Nationals.