Trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies (NTD) has won the John Smith's Grand National twice before with Earth Summit (1998) and Bindaree (2002), and this year once again has a number of likely sorts including last year's Topham Chase winner Irish Raptor, writes Elliot Slater.
Irish Raptor had first shown a penchant for the unique Aintree fences when leading until the second from home before fading into seventh in the 2007 Topham Chase. In a tremendous finish to the 2008 renewal Twiston Davies' charge went down with all guns blazing when failing by only a neck to peg back the gambled-on Gwanako, but 12 months later got his just reward for tremendous consistency at Aintree when holding on gamely to beat Ireland's Oodachee by a couple of lengths.
Some 2010 grand national entries just seem to be tailor-made for the Merseyside challenge and having raced five times in one lap events at Aintree (he also finished 6th in the 2008 Becher Chase before coming a cropper at the second fence in the same event 12 months later) Irish Raptor has shown that, particularly in April and on a decent surface, he is a serious threat to any horse at Aintree.
A proven stayer who has won at tough tracks like Sandown and Cheltenham over distances in excess of three miles, the 11-year-old has this year been prepared with the Grand National as his principal target. Twiston-Davies knows exactly what is required to win the day and at around 40/1 in the ante-post market there are good reasons for believing that Irish Raptor will give supporters a great run for their money.
The handicapper has allotted Irish Raptor 10st 7lbs, a perfect racing mark, but a figure that will mean that at least 20 horses above the Zaffaran gelding in the weights will have to drop out to give him a shot at Aintree glory. I believe there is every chance that they will and ‘NTD's' grand sort will make the starting line-up on for the 2010 Grand National.