Those who are already thinking about backing Blaklion for the Grand National in 2018 will have been delighted with his reappearance run at Wetherby last weekend. The current Grand National favourite ran in the Charlie Hall Chase over three miles and looked in great shape.
He stayed on very well but was beaten for pace at a crucial time, which is to be expected when that is the minimum trip that he needs. He eventually came second in the race, finishing behind stablemate Bristol De Mai.
As the ground softened in the lead up to the race, the conditions went in favour of Blaklion and a big run was expected by many. He was well backed before the race, eventually going off 5/1 third favourite behind Coneygree and Cue Card. During the race, Coneygree pulled up, and Cue Card fell at a crucial moment in the race. That left the race to Definitly Red, and the Twiston-Davies pair Blaklion and Bristol De Mai.
With the ground against Definitly Red, the front two shook him off and coming up the home straight the two stablemates Blaklion and Bristol De Mai fought it out. It was here where Bristol De Mai won the race, he has a better cruising speed and Blaklion was beaten for pace at this point. He managed to stay on well up the run-in and eventually was beaten by half a length in what was a thrilling finish.
While those who had backed Blaklion would have been a little disappointed he couldn’t get there, those who are looking long term towards the Grand National will have been thrilled by the run. Three miles was always going to test him, and while the soft ground helped turn the race into a staying test, it still wasn’t enough for Blaklion to get the win.
The handicapper has actually lowered Blaklion by one pound after his run in the Charlie Hall which will have been a relief to trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies. Running in the Charlie Hall was always going to be a risk, had he won the race then his handicap mark could have gone up, making the Grand National an even more difficult assignment. However, they have escaped the race without penalty, even though the horse has run a great race to come second.
To gain more experience at Aintree, Blaklion will head to the Beecher Chase for his next run, a race where he will go over the big Grand National fences for the second time. That experience is likely to serve him well in his second attempt to win the big one, and it will be interesting to see him after what was a great seasonal debut.
He is the favourite with most companies at this stage for the National, and a win in the Beecher may see him shorten even more for the race. Those who have already backed Blaklion or those who intend to back him for the Grand National will have been very pleased with what they saw at Wetherby last weekend.