Emma Lavelle hopes De Rasher Counter can make light of top-weight in the Marston’s 61 Deep Midlands Grand National at Uttoxeter.
The eight-year-old already has one major prize in the bag this season, having won the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury in late November under conditional jockey Ben Jones.
Dreams of a potential bid for Cheltenham Gold Cup glory were dashed after he finished a distant fourth in the Cotswold Chase in January, and he instead reverts to handicap company for the £150,000 feature the following afternoon.
Lavelle admits to having reservations about running her charge under a welter burden in testing conditions, but ultimately decided to give the green light on Thursday morning.
“It was a bit of a long decision, whether to run him or not, but he schooled well on Thursday morning and seems in great form,” said the Marlborough trainer.
“There are so many questions going forward with the coronavirus, who knows what will happen with racing?
“The horse is well in himself and ready to run. He won the novice handicap under 11st 12lb in heavy ground on this day last year, so we know he handles the ground and the track.
“It’s just a question of whether he can lump all that weight round.”
Although Jones takes 3lb off, De Rasher Counter must concede upwards of 10lb to each of his 14 rivals.
Next on the list is Oliver Sherwood’s novice Dominateur, who won successive races at Chepstow before the turn of the year – since when he has finished third in the Towton Novices’ Chase at Wetherby.
Sherwood said: “He has been great all season, bar his fall at Carlisle first time out, which they are all entitled to.
“The ground at Wetherby was a bit too good up the straight – and other than there, he has been very progressive.
“I was very impressed with him at Chepstow over Christmas. He is a proper soft-ground horse – and while the trip is an unknown, I’m pretty confident he will get it, given his relaxed way of racing.
“He has been ticking along at home, and we don’t tend to do a lot with with him, but hopefully we have brought him to the boil for this.”
Paul Nicholls is expecting a bold showing from Welsh Grand National runner-up Truckers Lodge.
He said: “He will love the ground and he has had a nice break since finishing second in the Welsh National. I’d like to think he has every chance.
“I was thinking of going to Haydock for the Grand National Trial. He had a little setback, meaning we couldn’t go there, but it was probably the best thing that ever happened.
“Lorcan (Williams) is taking 3lb off, so he should go very well.”
Petite Power appears a major contender for Fergal O’Brien, having split subsequent Grimthorpe Chase victor Captain Chaos and Cheltenham Festival hero The Conditional when third in the Classic Chase at Warwick on his latest appearance.
With Liam Harrison claiming 7lb, the 11-year-old will carry just 9st 7lb, and was a winner at Uttoxeter earlier in the campaign.
“It suits us, with the top horse running, because Liam can do 9st 7lb – no problem,” said O’Brien.
“The horse seems in great form, and the Warwick race is working out really well.
“Hopefully he can retain his form. If he runs up to the form of his last run he’s got to have a good chance off a light weight.”
Charlie Longsdon’s Just Your Type was pulled up in the Towton at Wetherby, but has since undergone a wind operation.
Longsdon said: “He has had a wind operation since his last run, because he never really went that day, but I think that might be because he had a couple of hard races in the space of a month.
“Big handicaps suit him, and he likes slow ground. It will be extreme ground up there, but he is a proper plodder.
“His run in the Borders National, giving a lot of weight away, was good. It is not a massive field and it will be a war of attrition, but he is at the right end of the weights – so we are keeping our fingers crossed.”