Mullins has grand plans
Just for a moment, all eyes are trained on Aintree instead of the Cheltenham Festival with the publication of the John Smith's Grand National entries — and champion trainer Willie Mullins has a pair of aces up his sleeve.
The race remains the most famous in the calendar and connections of the 84 entered are now officially under orders to start dreaming — no-one more so than owners Graham and Andrea Wylie, whose beige-and-black silks will be carried by the ante-post joint-favourites Prince de Beauchene and On His Own
Both are trained in Ireland by Mullins, both a best priced 16-1, with Paul Nicholls’ classy Tidal Bay also among the favourites if Cheltenham exertions don't take too much of a toll.
Prince de Beauchene would have started favourite last year had he not suffered a hairline fracture to a hip a fortnight before the big day.
On His Own did run at Aintree and was travelling as well as any when falling at Becher's Brook second time round.
Neptune Collonges, who finally filled the one big gap in champion trainer Nicholls' CV when beating Sunnyhillboy by a nostril in a breathtaking finish last year, is now retired, but the runner-up will try again (25-1), along with the third and fourth, Seabass (20-1) and Cappa Bleu (25-1).
Nicholls has plenty to go to war with. Join Together (20-1) will be among the leading fancies on the day, April 6, while Harry The Viking and What A Friend, both part-owned by Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson, have decent claims.
Donald McCain's Ballabriggs, the 2011 winner and sixth last April, will attempt to become the first since Red Rum — trained by his father, Ginger — to win the race more than once, but the omens aren't good.
It is an astonishing, though perhaps telling, fact that no Grand National winner has gone on to win another chase of any description under Rules since the 2002 hero Bindaree added the Welsh National the following year.
Meanwhile, Liam Treadwell endured an afternoon of mixed fortunes at Leicester.
The 2009 Grand National-winning jockey — on board Mon Mome — was hit with a 12-day ban for taking the wrong course on Special Robon but bounced back with a victory on Reginaldinho on his very next ride.
Treadwell's costly error came when he was leading the field in the Cream Gorse Novices Handicap Chase and mistakenly bypassed the first fence in the straight instead of the second.
He had to pull up the Venetia Williams-trained gelding once he saw the other runners jump the obstacle and realised his error.
Treadwell held his hands up and admitted he had made an error.
“I must apologise to all connections. It was a poor bit of riding in the heat of the moment,” he said.
“It slipped my mind what was actually happening in front of me. I'm very sorry for everyone.
“It's windy out there. Just turning in, the horse threw his head high and I'm trying to get behind the horse and carry him forward and I've got in my mind that the ditch was out.
“I'm not going to make any excuses. It was an error on my part and I'm disappointed for all the connections and people who backed the horse.”
Treadwell is suspended from February 13 to 24 inclusive.
However, an hour later Treadwell drove Reginaldinho (3-1 favourite) into the lead at the third last and kept the Williams-trained seven-year-old up to his work as he repeated a course and distance success earlier in the month.