The build-up to the 2016 Grand National begins at Aintree on Saturday afternoon with the Becher Chase (1.40pm) run over the famous spruce-topped fences.
Even though this race is over a mile and a quarter less than the National itself, it’s still set to be a stamina-sapping slog as the ground is already soft, with a deluge of further rain expected.
My eye was immediately drawn to the well-fancied, mud-loving favourite Goonyella, who must go close even though this trip is on the sharp side.
Jim Dreaper’s eight-year-old cannot have it soft enough, but seems to come into his own over trips in excess of four miles.
Soll has run well over these fences before, loves cut in the ground and comes from a stable close to hitting top form.
However, his tendency to burst blood vessels makes him a risky proposition.
Nigel Twiston-Davies has a terrific record at Aintree and his Algernon Pazham appear to be the pick of the fancied runners.
He looks the ideal type, but was available at 16/1 earlier in the week so makes less appeal at half those odds now.
Instead, I’m siding with Sue Smith’s NO PLANNING at 14/1 with Betway as he is well handicapped on his best form, jumps well, stays the trip, and won’t mind the ground if it gets atrocious.
The Grand Sefton (3.20pm) is also run over the National fences and I’m prepared to take a chance on Mouse Morris’s DROMNEA at 16/1 with Betway if he’s declared this morning.
He seems at his best on a heavy surface and, for me, is better value than the most likely winner Double Ross.
No Planning e/w, 1.40pm, Aintree
Dromnea e/w, 3.20pm, Aintree