The Grand National Trial is a Grade Three race for horses aged five years and over and is held over a distance of 3m 4f.
The contest provides National Hunt racing fans with further clues ahead of the Grand National itself in April and this year includes seven horses that have been entered for the Aintree marathon.
Those horses and their respective positions in the handicap are as follows: Blaklion (6), The Dutchman (42), Three Faces West (64), Silsol (62), Wild West Wind (65), Mysteree (86) and Sir Mangan (87).
Some may argue that the race is all but a trial in name only as since 1980 we have not seen the winner of this contest go onto lift the Grand National in the same season.
Suny Bay, the 1997 winner, did go on to finish second at Liverpool in the National, while the 2005 winner, Forest Gunner, followed up with a respectable fifth place. However there is a certain level of confidence this year that the current National favourite, Blaklion, can go on to buck this 38-year Haydock to Aintree trend.
Blaklion who is trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies and ridden on this occasion by Sam Twiston-Davies, is the current ante-post favourite for the Randox Health Grand National, in which he finished fourth last season.
The nine-year-old has already won at Aintree this season, having taken the Becher Chase over the Grand National fences at the beginning of December. Blaklion was runner-up to Vieux Lion Rouge in this very race twelve months ago and connections and fans alike will be hoping for nothing less than a victory or the narrowest of defeats on Saturday afternoon from this rising star.
Blaklion does however have to concede lumps of weight all around to his rivals but should have the class to do so.
The Colin Tizzard-trained The Dutchman, who was an impressive 13-length winner of the Grade Two Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock in January, will also be hoping to lay his Grand National credentials on the line.
Connections are keen to get another run into The Dutchman before the big day in April and have decided to take up his Haydock engagement on Saturday rather than waiting for the Eider Chase a week later at Newcastle.
The Tizzard team are in really good form at the moment and the eight-year-old could be the main fly in the ointment to Blaklion in this race.
Venetia Williams’ Yala Enki is a confirmed mud lover and front-runner but surprisingly for Haydock Park the conditions are highly unlikely to be that testing on the weekend.
Yala Enki is a Tommy Whittle winner however and appears to have an affinity with Haydock so it could be dangerous to dismiss him out of hand.
Three Faces West
The lightly raced ten-year-old has won three of his eight races over fences, as well as being placed on three occasions. He is also a two-time winner at the Merseyside venue.
After an 11-month lay-off due to injury he returned to action with a creditable third to Perfect Candidate at Cheltenham in back in November.
The last time we saw him out was when he fell at Haydock whilst leading the field in the Tommy Whittle Chase.
His trainer Philip Hobbs really hopes he can give his owners, Paul and Clare Rooney, a live chance in the Grand National.
Paul Nicholls’ German bred nine-year-old was last seen plugging on late in the Welsh Grand National and managed to take fifth place that day.
Silsol gives the impression he probably needs a bigger test of stamina than this but his rider Noel Fehily is a master tactician and should be able to keep him interested.
Wild West Wind
The nine-year-old was quite fancied in the Welsh Grand National last time out but fell at the twelfth fence, unable to follow up on his decent seasonal bow at the same venue.
With Blaklion carrying a welterweight this weekend, Wild West Wind will run off just 10st 9lb and his trainer Tom George is hoping he can capitalise on that advantage and put the uncharacteristic fall behind him.
Only last week Daklondike’s trainer David Pipe was saying that the six-year-old, and the youngest horse in this field, was looking more of a four-miler and an Eider type so the change of heart is somewhat baffling.
Connections won the race last year with Vieux Lion Rouge and even though Daklondike is improving at a rapid rate of knots, this is another step up in class again.
Sir Mangan won nicely at Bangor when switched back to fences a couple of runs ago but he was never a factor in the Classic Chase at Warwick and does not really give the impression he is a dour stayer.
It will take a big leap of faith to be siding with the Dan Skelton runner winning this feature race.
Michael Scudamore’s Mysteree will run in this race instead of attempting back-to-back victories in the Eider Chase.
Following his victory in the Eider, Mysteree finished second on his final start last season in the Midlands National.
Mysteree was pulled up on his return to action in the Welsh Grand National at Chepstow in January and will be hoping to bounce back here.
With Blaklion being likened to Red Rum this week you would like to think that the Nigel Twiston-Davies’ star would need to win this race in emphatic style should he wish to follow in the footsteps of the Aintree Legend?
Providing carrying top-weight does not him anchor him down, Blaklion has far superior form to the rest of this field and should be a tough nut to crack.
The Dutchman looks like the one who will give him his sternest challenge.
888sport suggests: Blaklion (nap)
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*