Evan Williams is pleased with Cappa Bleu ahead of the John Smith's Grand National

Last Updated: 05/04/13 1:19pm

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Cappa Bleu: Pleasing trainer on the run up to Aintree

Cappa Bleu: Pleasing trainer on the run up to Aintree

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Evan Williams is anticipating a big run in the John Smith's Grand National from the evergreen Cappa Bleu.

The 11-year-old was an excellent fourth in last year's National and has filled the runner-up spot on his two starts this season.

Williams said: "The one thing we do know is he's had a great preparation.

"We really couldn't be happier with how everything has gone.

"The drying ground doesn't worry me at all, it's probably a positive, and we just have to hope for some luck in running now."

Fellow Welsh trainer Tim Vaughan runs Saint Are, who won over the conventional fences at Aintree on Grand National day 12 months ago.

Vaughan said: "He didn't run as well as we'd hoped in the Kim Muir, but the ground was softer than he'd like and, for whatever reason, he never seems to put his best foot forward at Cheltenham.

"Hopefully he shows his best form at Aintree."

Irish trainer Gordon Elliott won the National with Silver Birch in 2007 and this year has a major contender in Chicago Grey.

The 10-year-old was unluckily brought down in the early stages last year and returns in top form, having won the Red Mills Chase at Navan last time out.

Elliott, who also saddles Tarquinius, said: "Paul Carberry rode him in his last bit of work and our horses are flying.

"He's about 10lb better off than last year and I think he's a better horse than last year, he's had a wind operation.

"I don't care what the ground is, once he gets over the first five or six fences I'll be delighted."

Another member of a strong Irish team is Paul Nolan's dual Grade One winner Joncol.

Nolan said: "We're delving into the unknown asking him to race over the National trip.

"We know he's a class horse, but he's had numerous problems.

"He seems in good health now, but in his last couple of races his jumping hasn't been brilliant.

"I'm hoping Aintree will light him up and that he'll run a respectable race and give his owners a great day out."

Kim Bailey won the National with Mr Frisk in 1990 and this year saddles outsider The Rainbow Hunter.

He said: "He is in there with a nice weight, which is a big help.

"He ran very well at Ascot last time as the ground was very tacky that day and he didn't really like it.

"He's going to get better ground on Saturday, which will suit him better.

"Provided he jumps the fences he'll stay.

"He goes there with as much chance as anything else."

Teaforthree has won over four miles, and was narrowly beaten in the Welsh National at Chepstow earlier this season.

Trainer Rebecca Curtis said: "He won at the Festival on better ground and I actually think he's better on it, but he's got a reputation for liking the mud.

"He's a sound jumper, he stays all day, and looks the ideal type.

"For a big horse, he gets in close and can stand off and be very clever at his fences."Nigel Twiston-Davies is confident Imperial Commander is ready to make his presence felt, despite being a 12-year-old and having to carry top weight.

With regular rider Paddy Brennan suspended, the Naunton trainer's son, Sam, rides the veteran for the first time in public.

Twiston-Davies has trained two previous National winners in Earth Summit (1998) and Bindaree (2002), but admits victory for his 2010 Gold Cup hero would be the highlight of his career.

He said: "It wouldn't get any better than that.

"All is good. We're very happy with the horse.

"I'm not worried about the statistics. Red Rum won it as a 12-year-old, so there's no reason why we can't do it.

"I think he's as good as ever."

Twiston-Davies jnr will be riding in his fourth National and cannot wait for the big race.

He said: "I'm very much looking forward to it.

"I've schooled him over a few National replica fences at home and he seemed to take to them very well.

"It will be interesting to see how takes to the actual fences on Saturday, but having watched all his replays he does look a very good jumper.

"I'm gutted for Paddy as he's his ride, but I'm looking forward to the race and we'll be doing our very best.

"There is a bit of pressure, but he's the class horse in the race."

Twiston-Davies also saddles outsiders Major Malarkey and Viking Blond.

He said: "Major Malarkey stays and jumps well and Viking Blond is a good stayer as well, so hopefully they've all got chances.

"The drying ground will be fine for all of them."

Trainer Donald McCain is confident Ballabriggs, the 2011 National hero and sixth last year, will do himself justice.

The Cholmondeley stables will also be represented by Across The Bay and Weird Al.

McCain said: "Ballabriggs is in good nick and I'm very happy with him going into the race.

"He's a 12-year-old but he has low mileage on the clock.

"We've been very happy with his preparation. He ran very well at Kelso last time, even though he was never going in the ground.

"The ground has come right for him this weekend and as long as we get a bit of luck in running, you'd have to be very hopeful.

"Across The Bay likes to up there and we'll try and get him a bit of light, if possible.

"I've no idea whether he'll take to the place or not, but he's the right sort of horse for it in that he stays well and he has a bit of quality.

"He was good enough to win a Grade Two race over hurdles last time, so if he does take to it he could run very well.

"Weird Al took to it well last year, but they don't always take to it a second time. He's got to go there and enjoy himself.

"I was very disappointed with his first run of the year in the Betfair Chase at Haydock as he was never going.

But, in the end, he wasn't beaten far by Silviniaco Conti, Long Run and The Giant Bolster.

"On that form, he'd have a right chance."

Champion trainer Paul Nicholls broke his National duck with Neptune Collonges last year and this time saddles Join Together, What A Friend and Harry The Viking.

What A Friend and Harry The Viking are part-owned by Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson.

Nicholls said: "It's very hard (to follow last year), it was an amazing day, but we've got three nice horses to run.

"What A Friend has very much the same profile as Neptune Collonges.

"He's been placed in Graded races and run very well, but has been out of form, so we need to bounce back. He will like the ground.

"Harry The Viking has been out of form a little bit, but did run well in the four-miler (National Hunt Chase) at Cheltenham last year, beaten two lengths by Teaforthree, so that form would give a chance.

"Join Together has been trained for the race and ran really well here in the Becher Chase when only beaten a nose. It looked that day as though another circuit would suit him well.

"He's a little bit moody. If it all went right he'd have a chance, if it doesn't, he won't.

"One thing he's always done is jump very nicely. He schooled over the National fences at home last week and all that went very well.

"Neptune was a Gold Cup horse and whether any of these are as good as him, I'm not sure.

"I'm incredibly lucky to have won the National once, and anything on top of that would be a bonus."The Evan Williams-trained was an excellent fourth in last year's National and has filled the runner-up spot on his two starts this season.

Williams said: "The one thing we do know is he's had a great preparation.

"We really couldn't be happier with how everything has gone.

"The drying ground doesn't worry me at all, it's probably a positive, and we just have to hope for some luck in running now."

Fellow Welsh trainer Tim Vaughan runs Saint Are, who won over the conventional fences at Aintree on Grand National day 12 months ago.

Vaughan said: "He didn't run as well as we'd hoped in the Kim Muir, but the ground was softer than he'd like and, for whatever reason, he never seems to put his best foot forward at Cheltenham.

"Hopefully he shows his best form at Aintree."

Irish trainer Gordon Elliott won the National with Silver Birch in 2007 and this year has a major contender in Chicago Grey.

The 10-year-old was unluckily brought down in the early stages last year and returns in top form, having won the Red Mills Chase at Navan last time out.

Elliott, who also saddles Tarquinius, said: "Paul Carberry rode him in his last bit of work and our horses are flying.

"He's about 10lb better off than last year and I think he's a better horse than last year, he's had a wind operation.

"I don't care what the ground is, once he gets over the first five or six fences I'll be delighted."

Another member of a strong Irish team is Paul Nolan's dual Grade One winner Joncol.

Nolan said: "We're delving into the unknown asking him to race over the National trip.

"We know he's a class horse, but he's had numerous problems.

"He seems in good health now, but in his last couple of races his jumping hasn't been brilliant.

"I'm hoping Aintree will light him up and that he'll run a respectable race and give his owners a great day out."

Kim Bailey won the National with Mr Frisk in 1990 and this year saddles outsider The Rainbow Hunter.

He said: "He is in there with a nice weight, which is a big help.

"He ran very well at Ascot last time as the ground was very tacky that day and he didn't really like it.

"He's going to get better ground on Saturday, which will suit him better.

"Provided he jumps the fences he'll stay.

"He goes there with as much chance as anything else."

Teaforthree has won over four miles, and was narrowly beaten in the Welsh National at Chepstow earlier this season.

Trainer Rebecca Curtis said: "He won at the Festival on better ground and I actually think he's better on it, but he's got a reputation for liking the mud.

"He's a sound jumper, he stays all day, and looks the ideal type.

"For a big horse, he gets in close and can stand off and be very clever at his fences."

The giant Soll creeps into the race at the bottom of the weights and turned in a visually impressive all-the-way win at Sandown a month ago.

Trainer Jo Hughes said: "I think he'll stay the National trip and we've schooled him over the special fences at Lambourn.

"He'd cope with any ground, but he wouldn't want it tacky like it was at Chepstow in the Welsh National - he never went a yard that day."

Bingley trainer Sue Smith saddles a couple of outsiders in Auroras Encore and Mr Moonshine.

She said: "We took them both to Wetherby for a racecourse gallop last Wednesday and they both worked very well.

"We've also schooled them over the Grand National-type fences on the Malton gallops and they both pleased me with their jumping.

"They've both been crying out for some drying weather so the forecast ground should suit them well."

Trainer David Pipe and owner David Johnson won the National in 2008 with Comply Or Die, and will this year go to war with Swing Bill.

The 12-year-old grey finished 10th last year and was fourth in the Becher Chase earlier this season.

Pipe said: "He schooled well over the National fences we've got and he's in good form, but he's got it all to do.

"He likes the track and would have been closer last year if he wasn't hampered at The Chair, but it's a sporting day out."


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