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Paul Nicholls' 2017 Grand National preview - The trainer's guide to his runners on Saturday

Sam Twiston-Davies riding Saphir du Rheu.

Paul Nicholls has been giving the Betfair blog his expert verdict on all of his runners in Saturday's Aintree Grand National.


Saphir Du Rheu

Comes here in sparkling form after a career best in finishing a close fifth in the Gold Cup at Cheltenham and is now officially 6lbs well in after that fine run. It was a perfect trial for the National though there is always the worry that this might come a little too soon after a hard race only 22 days ago.

Stamina should not be an issue as he was keeping on at the end of the Gold Cup and has finished second in a World Hurdle at Cheltenham.

While it's true Saphir Du Rheu has taken his time to get the hang of fences and has been a bit frustrating he looks very professional now and he was the automatic choice of Sam Twiston-Davies from my five runners. A big, strong, classy grey horse he has a good chance in an open race.

Wonderful Charm

Has had his issues all through his career, most notably with his breathing, but has found a new lease of life this season switched to hunter chases. He won his first two starts with his head in his chest and finished full of running when just failing to catch stable mate Pacha du Polder in the Foxhunters at Cheltenham.

The handicapper dropped him 11lbs for that performance but unfortunately he has to run off his old mark so he is 11lbs wrong in the National. You'd have to say that strictly on ratings he faces a huge task.

But his owners wanted him to run here, he's come out of Cheltenham bouncing and the key to him is the good ground he looks sure to get.

Wonderful Charm has been trained for the National all season and I am hopeful of a good run with his jockey Katie Walsh happily okay after her fall on Thursday.

Le Mercurey

Has shown top-class form this season, finishing just behind the former National winner Many Clouds at Aintree in December on unfavourable terms and then giving the Gold Cup third Native River a run for his money at Newbury in February.

I am still kicking myself for running him at Kelso five weeks ago on ground that was much too testing. Even so he looked sure to win until floundering in the mud on the long run-in.

Le Mercurey gives every sign that he is fine now, is a sound jumper, will relish the flat track at Aintree and better ground and has plenty of experience for a seven-year-old.

While racing anoraks bang on about horses of his age having a shocking record in the National I always enjoy the challenge of trying to defy trends from the past. In my view statistics are there for breaking.

Vicente

Looks amazing at the moment with his coat shining with vitality and good health. Vicente gained his biggest success a year ago in the Scottish National on decent ground at Ayr and he has been ticking over in the winter running in testing conditions that don't suit him one bit.

He is a real Spring horse and with a nice bit of sun on his back over the past couple of weeks he looks to have turned inside out and is full of life.

Vicente worked well at Wincanton last week and it wouldn't surprise me at all to see him bounce back here on his first run in the colours of his new owner Trevor Hemmings who has a great record in the race.

Just A Par

I'm delighted he is staying in the yard after being bought by Richard Thompson at the Aintree sale on Thursday evening. He will now run in the National in his colours and on his best form on drying ground could give him plenty to shout about.

Just A Par is a strong stayer who won the bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown two years ago and came tantalisingly close to completing the double last April. Soft ground was totally against him in last year's National and conditions are much more in his favour this time.

He bounced back with a ready success in a veterans chase at Newbury five weeks ago and should give Harry Cobden a great spin in his first Grand National.


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Paul Nicholls' 2017 Grand National preview - The trainer's guide to his runners on Saturday

Paul Nicholls has been giving the Betfair blog his expert verdict on all of his runners in Saturday's Aintree Grand National.

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