We take two against the field in the William Hill Grand National Trial at Haydock (3.35) a pair drawn from opposite ends of the handicap YALA ENKI and CAROLE'S DESTRIER.
Yala Enki makes big appeal, not least for having won this race by a street last year. He scored by 54 lengths that day, from Blacklion no less, so clearly track, trip and time of year are perfect!
Venetia Williams' charge comes here in good heart, having excelled in both outings this season.
He followed up a good Bangor victory by running a blinder in the Welsh National where he finished a staying on third to Elegant Escape and Ramsee De Teillee. The latter re-opposes and, while it's on much worse terms, not least because Venetia is using smart 7 lbs. claimer Hugh Nugent - he must be respected. He would prefer much softer ground though whereas Yala Enki is much more versatile in that regard.
Carole's Destrier retains his form really well and it was like old times when he won a cracking contest at Newbury over Christmas, beating Ballydine who later ran second in the Peter Marsh.
That was a tough encounter, with the eleven year old all out to get the verdict. He possibly reappeared too soon after that two weeks later when fourth to Impulsive Star - a serious contender
in today's race - at Warwick.
Once rated 154, he catches the eye off 138 now and off 10 - 8 has real prospects of at least making the frame. He likes to be delivered late as we saw at Newbury and has the ideal partner for that in Aidan Coleman who will be able to bide his time in what will be a highly competitive affair. He looks overpriced - but we're not complaining about that!
Wakanda loves this track and time of year and is in cracking form as we saw in the Peter Marsh but the trip might prove a bridge too far. Ah Littleluck is not travelling from Ireland just to admire the scenery, but this will be a baptism of fire in his first handicap chase. His trainer Tom Gibney must not be under rated as he has already won an Irish Grand National from his small and select team.
As we said already Impulsive Star must be on the short list, with Ballyoptic, Robinsforth and Royal Vacation - a strong Aintree candidate this year - all in the mix too. It's great to have exciting 16 runner races like this, instead of so many graded races with just a handful competing.
Sit back and enjoy what looks a fantastic day's racing, and Yala Enki and Carole's Destrier can give us a real run for our cash in the National Trial.
HAYDOCK - 15:35
1/2 Point Each Way Yala Enki
(10/1 Paddy Power 5 places else 9/1 generally look for bookies paying 5 places)
1/2 Point Each Way Carole's Destrier
(20/1 Betvictor 5 places else 18/1 Betfred & Totesport both paying 5 places)
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