The Grand National had its first Scottish winner of the race for a number of years in 2017 with One For Arthur, who unfortunately misses out through injury for this renewal.
But the Scots could follow up again with another winner in the race with Sandy Thomson-trained SEEYOUATMIDNIGHT, who I watched eagerly on his comeback and prep run for this great marathon of a race.
He jumped with exuberance and overall put in a very nice performance over an inadequate 2m4f trip at Newbury, representing just his third chase start in two years since a gallant third in the Scottish National (4m) off the same mark of 149, five pounds below his highest rating.
That piece of form confirms his is more than capable in big-field staying handicaps having only won chase starts in relatively small-fields previously. Those victories include the scalp of Blaklion at Cheltenham (2m5f) and a comfortable victory over One For Arthur at Kelso over a distance just shy of three miles on heavy going, when rated two pounds higher capping a great novice chasing campaign.
His most striking performance might arguably have been in a drubbing of Bristol De Mai in a two-runner Listed race at Carlisle (2m4f) where he simply outclassed him, and it was only an injury that prevented his team from having a crack at this last year.
Lightly-raced for a ten-year-old, Seeyouatmidnight also holds that crucial piece of Aintree form over hurdles in the Grade 1 Sefton Novice Hurdle (3m1f) in 2015 and there is a strong chance that he could be a potential Grand National winner carrying a nice weight of 10st 11lbs.
The fact that Seeyouatmidnight has just been bought by Cheveley Park Stud’s David and Patricia Thompson could also be significant as they won the race with a similar move back in 1992 on Party Politics.
JP McManus originally had five in this before the withdrawal of Minello Rocco, and the trainer of former winner Don’t Push It could have another interesting contender in REGAL ENCORE.
There is no doubt that Regal Encore is a quirky individual, and there have been plenty of occasions when he has frustrated punters having failed to finish in almost half of his starts, but on his day, he can be a classy individual and he has performed well all three times around the Aintree track throughout his career.
That includes an eighth-place finish last year in the race when he way too far back and unable to land a blow, before staying on nicely at the end. Horses who have run well in the National tend to get round again and he arguably is coming in to this with a better preparation and in better form.
Regal Encore is officially 4lbs well-in for a Listed success last time out in soft conditions where he looked very good that day. Admittedly, he beat what was a moderate field of handicappers.
But he put any doubts about his ability firmly to bed when finishing a staying-on third in the former Hennessy Gold Cup off this same mark of 150. He gets a big pull at the weights with the winner Total Recall and he could relish this test again.
Regal Encore did pull up on his penultimate start, but that was only three weeks after Newbury and those exertions may have taken its toll. He was freshened up with a 56 day break to win last time out, and he has had the exact same break for this.
At 33/1, he is a lively outsider.
0.75pts each-way Seeyouatmidnight @16/1, 17:15 Aintree, Saturday (1/5 odds, 6 places with Black Type)
0.75pts each-way Regal Encore @33/1, 17:15 Aintree, Saturday (1/4 odds, 5 places with Bet365)
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