A total of 17 runners are set to go to post for the Midlands Grand National (15:00) at Uttoxeter, the traditional highlight on the Saturday after the Cheltenham Festival.
Iwilldoit (166) tops the field on Timeform's weight-adjusted ratings despite having to concede at least 10 lb all round. He proved better than ever after 13 months off as he added a second big staying prize to his CV (after the 2021 Welsh Grand National) in the Classic Chase at Warwick last time, again jumping and travelling well before asserting in the straight to win by two and three-quarter lengths. A thorough stayer, he remains potentially well treated from an 8 lb higher mark and has all the attributes to win more good races.
A couple of those who finished behind Iwilldoit at Warwick are in opposition again today, namely the third Notachance (160) and fourth Guetapan Collonges (165p). Notachance needs to bounce back from a below-par run in the Grand National Trial at Haydock last time, whereas Guetapan Collonges clearly arrives here at the peak of his powers having shown improved form to win a handicap at this course five weeks ago, finding plenty on the run-in to land the spoils by a length. This will be tougher up 6 lb, but the way he shaped last time suggests the return to further could eke out a bit more improvement.
French Paradoxe (164p) is another potential improver having made it three wins from his last three completed starts with a dominant effort at Newcastle in January, gradually drawing clear from four out to win by six and a half lengths (value for extra having been eased heavily on the run-in). The handicapper has reacted accordingly with an 11 lb hike in the weights, but French Paradoxe remains relatively unexposed as a chaser and is definitely worth a try in these deeper waters.
Several of these ran in the latest edition of the Welsh Grand National at Chepstow in December and The Two Amigos (163) was a brave winner on that occasion, making virtually all as he dug deep after the last to win by a length and a quarter. He's gone up 5 lb for that run to a BHA mark of 132, but it's worth remembering that he was competitive off 144 only a couple of seasons ago.
The Galloping Bear (163) probably would have made the frame in the Welsh National but for falling four out and he showed no ill effects from that tumble when last seen filling the runner-up spot in the Eider Chase at Newcastle, sticking to the task well to be beaten only two and a half lengths. This sort of test brings out the best in him and there is no reason why he shouldn't give another good account up 5 lb.
Truckers Lodge (161) finished fourth in the Welsh National, though he was still beaten 28 lengths and it remains the case that he hasn't won since landing this race from a BHA mark of 141 back in 2020. He is now down to 135 and could go close if he arrives here on a going day for Paul Nicholls, who has the 'Hot Trainer' Flag to denote that his yard is in rude health. However, it seems more likely that Truckers Lodge will be forced to settle for a minor role in this race once again having also finished seventh in 2021 and sixth in 2022.
Time To Get Up (154+) won this race in 2021 and was third from a 4 lb higher mark 12 months ago, earning him the 'Horse For Course' Flag to highlight that he is very effective under these conditions. Admittedly, his three starts this season have been disappointing – including when pulled up in the Welsh National – but it's worth putting a line through his run in the Grand National Trial last time having made an early blunder from which he was always going to struggle to recover. He is now 8 lb lower in the weights than when winning this race two years ago and it will be interesting to see whether the market speaks in his favour.
Tile Tapper (163) and Bushypark (161) are a couple of last-time-out winners in the field. Tile Tapper still looks on a fair mark having gone up 6 lb for his narrow win at Carlisle, but he still needs to prove his stamina for this sort of trip given that he is yet to race beyond three miles. Bushypark, on the other hand, has shown that he is all about stamina and there was plenty to like about this three-and-a-half-length win at Catterick in January, jumping superbly throughout and looking value for extra having been eased late on. He is 2 lb out of the weights here but shouldn't be underestimated having looked potentially useful earlier in his career.
Others who deserve a mention include Major Dundee (162?) and Secret Reprieve (161), both of whom look interesting having shaped encouragingly at shorter trips last time. That was Major Dundee's first start for three months when he ran at Kempton and he looked rusty in a race which put too much emphasis on speed at three miles, ultimately passing the post 12 lengths behind the winner in third. This test should play more to his strengths and he is effectively 3 lb lower in the weights than when also finishing third (beaten 12 lengths) in last year's Scottish Grand National at Ayr for Alan King, who also has the 'Hot Trainer' Flag.
Secret Reprieve hasn't won since landing the 2020 Welsh Grand National, but he's shaped as if retaining all his ability in a couple of starts this season, including when dropped back to three miles at Cheltenham last time, finishing with running left there but simply lacking the speed to make a bigger impact at that trip. He is now 2 lb lower in the weights than when winning the Welsh National and there is clearly a case to be made for him if building on the promise of last time.
Scipion (161) got off the mark over fences at the third attempt at Lingfield last time, but that wasn't much of a race and he lacks the experience for a handicap as competitive as this. By contrast, Captain Kangaroo (157x) – a rare runner at Uttoxeter for Willie Mullins, who also has the 'Hot Trainer' Flag – has been a fixture in the big staying handicaps in Ireland, notably winning the Cork National back in November. He has failed to complete in four subsequent starts, though, and his jumping lets him down more often than not.
Similar comments apply to Floueur (160x), well beaten on his last two starts over hurdles, while the field is completed by Max Dynamo (149) and D'Jango (143§), both of whom look out of their depth in this company.
Timeform Analyst's Verdict:
Iwilldoit returned in some style when adding Warwick's Classic Chase to his 2021 Welsh National success and this most progressive sort can defy an 8 lb hike in the weights to make it 5-6 over fences. Guetapan Collonges (second choice) and French Paradoxe both arrive on the up too so could emerge as the chief threats if their stamina holds out, while former winners of this event Truckers Lodge and Time To Get Up could outrun their odds too now they have fallen in the weights.
Timeform's weight-adjusted ratings:
165p Guetapan Collonges
164p French Paradoxe
163 The Galloping Bear
163 The Two Amigos
163 Tile Tapper
162? Major Dundee
161 Secret Reprieve
161 Truckers Lodge
157x Captain Kangaroo
154+ Time To Get Up
149 Max Dynamo
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