Horses with experience of the unique fences often run well in the Grand National and Blaklion jumped impeccably in last year’s race. The Nigel Twiston-Davies runner had a great round of jumping when winning the Becher Chase at Aintree in December. The Last Samuri is another leading contender who has taken to the fences.
The National is now more akin to a high-class handicap chase with most horses running off their true mark. As a result the race is now more open and the traditional method of identifying potential winners is less effective.
The winner of the first Grand National in 1839 was called Lottery but for many years only a small group of runners were potential winners. The weights have now been suppressed which means unexposed horses and novices can win or make the frame.
The National is a handicap which means the horses entered at the first stage are allocated a weight based on ability and collateral form. The minimum weight is 10 stone so any horse deemed not to be good enough to carry that weight runs with more weight than the true mark which is a disadvantage.
In the current era the majority of horses justify a weight of 10 stone or more which means the range is smaller and there are more potential winners. However, the virtues of stamina and jumping ability still apply even though the fences are more forgiving.
The greatest steeplechase in the world is the longest race in the UK. It was formerly run over a distance of four miles and four furlongs but that has been reduced to locate the start away from the packed grandstands. False starts have been a bane of the race and the frenzied atmosphere near the crowd did not help.
Twiston-Davies has compared Blaklion to Red Rum in their ability to be nimble at the fences. The three-time National winner jumped 150 Aintree fences with little semblance of an error and Blaklion is looking just as effective over the distinct obstacles that look totally different to the fences on park course.
The horse’s jumping took him to the front turning on to the racecourse proper for the final time last year. Blaklion was going well and apparently coasting to victory before running out of stamina approaching the second last. One For Arthur overhauled Blaklion who faded somewhat to finish fourth. Run from off the pace the horse can go three better this time and win the National.
The Last Samuri has completed the course in the last two years so has safely negotiated 60 fences in the National. In 2016 The Last Samuri was overhauled by Rule The World after the last fence and finished second but was well off the pace and out of contention before the final two fences last year. The horse also made the frame in the 2016 Becher Chase.
In terms of age and experience The Last Samuri has the correct profile but with more in Blaklion’s favour making the frame could be the limit of his achievement and Blaklion is the main tip to win the 2018 Grand National.