It’s the 172nd running of the Grand National at Aintree Racecourse tomorrow, starting at 5.15pm, with coverage live on ITV1.
And it looks set to be another spectacular contest with last year’s winner Tiger Roll as well as Rathvinden , Vintage Clouds , Anibale Fly , Lake View Lad , Joe Farrell and Rock The Kasbah among the leading fancies.
Here the ECHO’s racing reporter Chris Wright’s give his tips, big-race verdict and preview of what might happen at Aintree.
You can see his tips for the rest of the day’s races at Aintree here .
And catch up with our coverage on the three-day meeting in our dedicated Grand National section , where we will continue to bring you race results, glamorous outfits, pictures and other updates from Aintree throughout the day.
The London-born Lancastrian is already one of five owners who have won the world’s greatest steeplechase three times.
And now the former Blackpool Tower owner can be out on his own as the Sue Smith-trained Vintage Clouds can provide him a fabulous fourth victory in the Aintree marathon.
Hemmings had his first Grand National win with Hedgehunter in 2005, achieving a long-held dream to land the Aintree showpiece.
Further successes with Ballabriggs – trained by Merseyside-born, Cheshire-based Donald McCain – in 2011 and Oliver Sherwood’s Many Clouds four years ago saw him become the joint winning-most owner.
Vintage Clouds is by the same sire, Cloudings , as Hemmings’ most recent winner Many Clouds – a homebred out of the owner’s Monymusk Stud in County Cork.
Most of his horses are bred with the Grand National in mind and the nine-year-old has developed into a real Aintree contender.
He was third in the Ultima Handicap Chase at last year’s Cheltenham Festival and just missed the cut to run in the National after. He showed his liking for long-distance chases when a fine third to Joe Farrell in the Scottish Grand National at Ayr.
Grand National 2019 interactive Aintree course map – all 16 fences explained
Having previously won at Aintree over the Mildmay fences, he scored at another Merseyside venue, Haydock Park , on his seasonal return as he got back on the road to Liverpool.
He was pulled up in the Welsh Grand National at Chepstow over Christmas but following a wind operation showed his well-being with a fine second to Beware The Bear back in the Ultima again at last month’s Cheltenham Festival .
He jumps well, travels fluently and has shown he has the stamina for this type of test.
Vintage Clouds has a similar profile to trainer Smith’s 2013 Grand National winner Auroras Encore , who was also placed in the Scottish version at Ayr the year before his win. And he carried a similar light weight to the 10st4lb the nine-year-old has to tomorrow.
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So everything appears to be in place for him to go very close to his best career success on the biggest stage.
Some stats appear to be against the gelding – as he looks to become only the fourth grey in history to win the Grand National following The Lamb (1868 and 1871), Nicolaus Silver (1961) and Neptune Collonges (2012).But that is more to do with the fact there are fewer grey horses and not many have lined-up in the race over the years.
Grand National 2019
He will be one of three – fellow Hemmings-owned Lake View Lad and the David Pipe-trained Ramses De Teillee – bidding for glory this year.
And Neptune Collonges proved if you have the right attributes a grey can triumph. And Vintage Clouds certainly does.
But as ever it won’t be easy and another horse we know has everything needed could deny him and land his own historic success.
Gordon Elliott’s Tiger Roll is bidding to become the first back-to-back winner since the legendary triple hero Red Rum in 1973-74.
And he arrives back at Aintree seemingly an even better horse having landed a second successive Glenfarclas Chase – and a fourth Cheltenham Festival success overall – even more impressively than before his National win 12 months.
Add in a win in the Grade Two Boyne Hurdle in February and the nine-year-old looks at his peak of powers.
He could easily add another victory and it looks like he could go off as one of the shortest-priced favourites in Grand National history.
But a bigger weight – he must carry third top weight of 11st5lb – and the weight of history may mean he has to settle for a place. Although so far the remarkable little horse has met almost every challenge thrown his way.
Last year Tiger Roll just beat Willie Mullins’ Pleasant Company by a head and the 11-year-old also has a good chance of being in the shake-up. But stablemate Rathvinden may go closest to giving his Irish trainer a second success after Hedgehunter’s win in 2005.
Rathvinden, Walk In The Mill, Joe Farrell
Rathvinden won the Bobbyjo Chase on his most recent start and took the four-miler at last year’s Cheltenham Festival.
This bold-jumping 11-year-old should be in the shake-up.
Becher Chase winner Walk In The Mill showed his liking for the Aintree fences in that success in December.
Robert Walford’s nine-year-old could go close to becoming the first horse to land the Becher-National double in the same season.
AP McCoy gives Grand National verdict on Tiger Roll emulating Red Rum at Aintree
He missed last year’s race and showed his liking for the Aintree challenge earlier this season – although this time a place, rather than a win, may be on the agenda.
Tiger Roll’s stablemate, 2018 Irish Grand National hero General Principle , Anthony Honeyball’s Regal Encore , the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Go Conquer and last year’s Scottish star Joe Farrell – after just getting in the race at the final hour – all have chances of going close.
But it may be that it is Vintage Clouds who hits the heights at Aintree on Saturday.
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