The Grand National has attracted an initial 112 entries for the 2019 renewal of the Aintree showpiece.
As the world’s most famous steeplechase, some class horses have won the extended four-and-a-quarter mile race over two circuits and 30 fences down the years.
This year could see highly rated horses by the BHA line-up on Merseyside heading the 40-runner field on Saturday, 6 April.
While the weights aren’t published alongside initial entries as handicappers produce their own special adjusted ratings for the Grand National, their official marks are an early guide.
With that in mind then, here are three horses who could carry top weight in the 2019 renewal of this ultimate equine test of endurance.
Bristol De Mai
If the Grand National was run at Haydock instead of Aintree, then Bristol De Mai would surely be favourite with bookmakers.
There’s just something about that other Merseyside racecourse that seems to suit the Nigel Twiston-Davies trained, Simon Munir and Isaac Souede owned eight-year-old.
Bristol De Mai has won back-to-back runnings of the Grade 1 Betfair Chase at Haydock, but isn’t suited by other tracks that host leading staying chases like Kempton and Cheltenham.
That has earned him a BHA rating of 173, the highest of all potential Grand National runners. While previous Aintree form has Bristol De Mai zero from three, none of his previous career appearances there have come over the spruce-covered fences.
It’s clear that galloping left-handed tracks that are relatively flat suit him. The prospect of carrying top weight if Bristol De Mai runs means he’s 40/1 with most bookmakers to become his trainer’s third winner of the world-famous race.
Irish raiders have a 40 per cent Grand National strike rate in the previous two decades, and the first four home in last year’s race were all trained in the Emerald Isle.
In-behind Tiger Roll, Pleasant Company and veteran Bless The Wings at Aintree 12 months ago was Anibale Fly for well-known handicap plotters Tony Martin and JP McManus.
Finishing fourth in the Grand National after placing third in the Cheltenham Gold Cup on his previous start meant he was far from disgraced in either.
Anibale Fly is thus a hugely consistent horse in staying chases and fully earned an official rating of 167.
That form and the fact he’s only a nine-year-old now makes him well worth considering as an each-way punt for Aintree again at 33/1 and Grand National free bets available through Oddschecker.
A prerequisite of any horse tackling this Merseyside marathon is proof they stay. Stamina is essential, and the eye is drawn to those animals who have won the other National races in Wales, Scotland and Ireland.
Elegant Escape improved from second in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury to Welsh Grand National glory on his first try at 3m 5f over Christmas.
That Chepstow victory has seen the seven-year-old’s official rating rise into the 160s and trainer Colin Tizzard has already winners over the Grand National fences.
While they have come in the Topham Chase over a much shorter trip, seven-year-old Elegant Escape may already possess sufficient endurance to have a crack at the big one.
Having carried 11st 8lb on his back when winning the Welsh National, he looks capable of going well under a welter burden. Elegant Escape has Grand National quotes ranging from 25/1 to 14/1 with the bookies, meaning he’s prominent in the betting.