Blaklion is the favourite for the Grand National and the horse has a final prep race for the most famous steeplechase in the world at Haydock Park. The track was a popular destination for horses entered for Aintree because the nature of the fences. The drops at Haydock were similar to the obstacles on the National course but safety modifications mean both sets of fences have become more conventional.
Despite less severe drops and more forgiving material the fences in the Grand National look different to fences on park courses. Some horses can handle the track while others find it difficult to adapt. Blaklion is in the former group and the horse seems to relish the unusual jumps. He will have to complete the course and win at Haydock and prove to be a worthy favourite to justify market support for the National. A poor run could see Blaklion drift in the betting for the famous race.
The Haydock trial is a handicap chase over more than three and a half miles. It will be a test of stamina and jumping and that’s why the contest will be key for Blaklion and other National horses. After a great deal of rain the going should be soft or heavy and this is the major difference in conditions that prevail for the National. The race is usually run on good ground but a wet March could bring soft going into the equation.
Blaklion finished fourth in the National last year when looking like the most likely winner. The jockey went for home about a mile out but was pegged back by One For Arthur approaching the second last. The trainer has suggested the horse will be held up this year after being allocated a weight of 11 stone six pounds. The weights could rise if horses above Blaklion in the weights are withdrawn so an exceptional weight-carrying effort will be required to win the National. Five of the last 10 winners carried 11 stone or more and Many Clouds won the race in 2015 off 11-09.
Nigel Twiston-Davies, who trains Blaklion, has said the horse jumps like Red Rum. The three time National winner completed the National five times, jumping 150 fences in total without the semblance of an error. Blaklion went back to Aintree in December and won the Becher Chase over the National fences. Currently quoted at 10/1 for the big race that price will go if Blaklion as expected runs well at Haydock. The horse is a former winner of the RSA Chase so is a graded runner competing in a handicap so can carry the weight.
There are nine declared runners which is just about right for each-way betting. Bookmakers will settle bets at one quarter for the first three places so there could be some value lurking at the bottom of the card. Mysteree is not hugely behind the favourite on ratings and is four times the price. Of just 10 stone three pounds Mysteree could get in the mix and make the payout places.
On ratings Blaklion has a little to find with Vieux Lion Rouge. That horse won the Haydock race last year so is proven over course and distance. Blaklion would have been tested by Vieux Lion Rouge but the horse has not been declared to run. The biggest threat could come from The Dutchman and the horses are closely matched. However, Blaklion is a classier animal so can win the trial and then the main event.