Leading Grand National fancy Prince De Beauchene was last night ruled out of the race for the 2nd year running due to injury along with 2011 Scottish Grand Nationall winner Beshabar who was also confirmed a non runner owing to injury but on the plus side Irish champion trainer Willie Mullins has confirmed that his 2012 Irish Hennessy Gold Cup winner Quel Esprit is a intended runner and its also looking increasingly likely that top weight Imperial Commander the 2010 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner will line up next Saturday for the worlds greatest steeplechase.
On His Own is now a clear 7-1 favourite with Ladbrokes going as short as 6-1 which for a race like the Grand National doesn't look tremendous value for a race with 40 runners but he may well be the one blot in the handicap with Willie Mullins suggesting that On His Own may well be a better horse than his previous winner Hedgehunter who was also a Gold Cup runner up and lets not forget he was travelling very well when coming to grief at Bechers Brook last year but he hasn't run over fences since last years race and even though won his prep race over hurdles and looking very good in the process this was his only outing this season I feel all the value has been squeezed out of his odds.
Ever since the weights where released I have strongly fancied Imperial Commander and despite now having to carry top weight if given the green light to take his chance he is set to race from handicap mark of 158 while he was rated 185 after his Gold Cup victory and judging by his excellent comeback after a near 2 year lay off he certainly still looks like a better horse than the 158 rating he is due to race off here and he looks a ideal type of the demands of the Grand National and he must have a great chance of making history in becoming only the 3rd horse to have won both the Gold Cup and Grand National.
Katie Walsh has been confirmed to ride Seabass who was 3rd in last years race and although having to carry 11-6 this years race doesn't appear to be quite as strong as last years renewal and there is no reason why judging on his 2 runs this season that he will not match if not better last years performance in the race.
There is a strong Welsh challenge for this years race despite the absence of Beshabar with last years 4th Cappa Bleu who ran a cracking race at Ascot last time out carrying top weight to finish 2nd giving 10 pounds to the progressive Vino Griego who franked the form at the Cheltenham Festival and if given a more positive ride than he recived in last years National then this lightly raced but very talented 11 year old may well improve on last years 4th. Teaforfree is the other big Welsh hope hailing from the very progressive Rebecca Curtis stable and despite finishing down the field at Haydock last time out the tight track there wouldn't have played to this big bold jumping galloper and with his stamina proven for a marathon trip with his victory over 4m at last years Cheltenham Festival he ticks all the right boxes for a potential Grand National contender.
I am going to stick my neck out and select Imperial Commander as my number one hope for the race with his trainer Nigel Twiston-Davis already have saddled two Grand National winners and I'm sure there would be no more popular winner than this 12yo former Gold Cup hero.