As unique as the Grand National is, there are still recognised trials for the world's most famous steeplechase on either side of the Irish Sea.
Horses who have won certain races en route to Aintree are well worth a second look, and perhaps these four, in particular, would prove useful, as we look back over the past season.
Walk In The Mill
An obvious place to start is with the Becher Chase – run over the Grand National fences albeit just over a mile shorter in distance. That race has been won in 2018 and 2019 by Walk In The Mill, who is trained at the little known stables of Robert Walford.
Horses like him can put a modest yard and obscure trainer on that map. That is precisely what Walk In The Mill has done as, besides winning the Becher twice, he was fourth in the Grand National itself in 2019. He clearly acts on the course with its special fences covered with spruce, and that's why he's 16/1 to return to Aintree and win the big one.
There are also Grand Nationals in Wales and Scotland to consider. The former was won over the Christmas period at Chepstow on typically deep winter ground by Potters Corner, who previously landed the Midlands Grand National at Uttoxeter in the previous season.
Trained by Christian Williams, this ten-year-old has no stamina doubts as he won over the Aintree trip when holding a very game mare, Ms Parfois, by three lengths. Potters Corner went on to land the Welsh National in similarly dour style and the runner-up, Truckers Lodge, has franked the form by taking the Midlands equivalent this year.
Extreme distances and testing conditions seem to be relished by this horse and, because of this, Potters Corner is a 20/1 chance in the Grand National betting on this year's race as a result.
The combination of stiff fences and winter ground at Warwick for the Classic Chase can also give punters pointers for Aintree. That Grade 3 handicap was won by JP McManus's Kimberlite Candy this season.
It was a notable success for trainer Tom Lacey who, like Williams and Walford, it's fair to say isn't exactly among the upper echelons of National Hunt trainers. He has a good horse on his hands in Kimberlite Candy, however, who was previously runner-up to Walk In The Mill in the Becher.
The handicapper took his ten-length victory in the Classic over subsequent Grimthorpe Chase scorer Captain Chaos literally, as he is up 10lb in the weights for that. What that does, however, is guarantee Kimberlite Candy a place in the 40-runner field at Aintree – and he's 16/1 for that.
It can also be wise to follow horse racing odds and results in Ireland, and keep an eye on their Grand National trials. Willie Mullins trio of Hedgehunter, Pleasant Company, and Rathvinden have all won the Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse and then proceeded to do well at Aintree in the years after.
That makes this year's victor, Acapella Bourgeois, of obvious interest. This ten-year-old was runner-up to Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Al Boum Photo at Tramore on New Year's Day, so brings strong form claims into a Grand National bid at 33/1.
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