Secret Reprieve still sweating on Aintree pass

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Ante-post favourite Cloth Cap featured amongst 68 confirmations for Saturday’s Randox Grand National at Aintree, with Welsh National scorer Secret Reprieve the big name still on the outside looking in.

Evan Williams’ impressive Chepstow hero is 43rd on the list, with a maximum field of 40 (plus four possible reserves) allowed in the Aintree showpiece.

Secret not yet revealed for Aintree

It means a tense wait for Welsh trainer Williams and connections of Secret Reprieve. He’s been much-touted for the Aintree spectacular since he justified 5/2 favouritism in winning at Chepstow in January.

He had romped home the previous month in a Welsh National trial at the same course and the improving seven-year-old will be regarded as one of the leading contenders come Saturday if he makes the line-up.

The four reserves will only be eligible if there any defectors from the declared runners before 1pm on Friday under current guidelines.

Dan Skelton’s Blaklion – fourth in 2017 when One For Arthur won and brought down at the first a year later – as well as John McConnell’s Some Neck sit between Secret Reprieve and the last spot as things stand – though it would still be a shock should the current top 40 remain intact.

Cloth Cap nearing the big day

Ante-post favourite Cloth Cap has no such fears and is No.29 on the list at this point. Jonjo O’Neill’s charge has been an impressive winner of the Ladbrokes Trophy and Kelso’s Premier Chase in two starts this season. His victory in Scotland last month ensures he’s got a stone in hand on official ratings going into the Grand National and means he’s trading as short as 4/1 favourite in some books.

Jockey Tom Scudamore is relishing the challenge ahead with Cloth Cap and cannot wait to get to Aintree for the big race on Saturday.

“It looks like he’s the ideal horse and it’s the old cliché that I wouldn’t swap him for anything. If I was riding something else Cloth Cap would be the one I’d want to ride,” he told Nick Luck’s podcast on Monday.

“He stayed four miles plus in the Scottish National, he’s put up some great performances this year and he’s a stone well-in. That all points to him having a great chance, but he’s got to go and actually do it – we’ve seen it time and time again before, you can talk as much as you like, but you’ve got to go and do it.

“It’s nice to talk about it, it’s a lovely position to be in, but we’ve got to go and do it.”

Irish challenge remains strong

While the Irish domination of Cheltenham last month is unlikely to be repeated on Merseyside over the three-day Grand National Festival, the raiding party remains strong for the main event itself.

Henry de Bromhead’s Minella Times is set to be the mount of Cheltenham heroine Rachael Blackmore, while Willie Mullins counts 2019 Irish National winner Burrows Saint amongst his possible contenders. The Irish champion trainer is however sweating on the fitness of jockey Paul Townend, who injured his foot at Fairyhouse on Sunday and is in a race against time to be ready to travel to Aintree now.

Ted Walsh has trained an Aintree Grand National winner already and his contender Any Second Now is a big player. The JP McManus-owned runner won a Grade 2 in Ireland last time and the former winner of the Kim Muir at the Cheltenham Festival looks tailor-made for Aintree.

Bristol De Mai stands strong

Nigel Twiston-Davies has twice before tasted Aintree glory in the great race and he’s set to allow multiple Grade 1-winning grey Bristol De Mai to carry top weight on Saturday.

The three-time Betfair Chase winner was last spotted finishing second to Native River at Sandown in the Cotswold Chase in February. He has yet to win around Aintree, but has been second and fourth in the Grade 1 Bowl at this meeting – behind Might Bite in 2018 and Kemboy a year later.

Kimberlite Candy, Takingrisks, Potters Corner were amongst those to stand their ground, with the defections including Beware The Bear, Pym, The Jam Man, Class Conti at the five-day stage.

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