Haydock Park stages the £100,000 G3 Betfred Grand National Trial this Saturday with the extended three and a half-mile handicap chase set to provide pointers to the £1-million Randox Health Grand National at Aintree on Saturday, April 14.
There are 15 entries going forward for the Betfred Grand National Trial, with 10 of them also holding an entry for the Aintree spectacular.
Blaklion (Nigel Twiston-Davies, 11st 12lb, 11/4 favourite with Betfred) is the current ante-post favourite for the Randox Health Grand National, in which he finished fourth last season. The nine-year-old is already a winner at Aintree this season, having captured the Randox Health Becher Chase over the Grand National fences on December 9.
Twiston-Davies, who prepared his 1998 Grand National winner Earth Summit in the Grand National Trial, said: "Blaklion goes to Haydock next for the Betfred Grand National on Saturday.
"I think it makes more sense at the moment to go to Haydock as there is a good space between that race and Aintree.
"He is also still in the Gold Cup, which is tempting, but we will probably not go Cheltenham next month. I am not ruling it out - we will just have to see what happens."
Vieux Lion Rouge (David Pipe, 11st 1lb, 8/1 with Betfred) captured the Betfred Grand National Trial in 2017, when defeating Blaklion by three and a quarter lengths.
He subsequently came home sixth to One For Arthur in the Randox Health Grand National. The nine-year-old was last seen when seventh to Blaklion in the Randox Health Becher Chase.
Trainer David Pipe commented:"Vieux Lion Rouge is in good form at home.
"He has two entries on Saturday, one at Haydock for the Grand National Trial and is also in at Ascot.
"We will see what the weather does before making a decision, but we are keen to get him out somewhere as we would like to run him once before we head to Aintree for the Grand National."
The other entries for the Betfred Grand National Trial who also in the Randox Health Grand National are The Dutchman (Colin Tizzard, 10st 13lb, 5/1 with Betfred for Saturday), Three Faces West (Philip Hobbs, 10st 9lb, 7/1), Silsol (Paul Nicholls, 10st 9lb, 16/1), Wild West Wind (Tom George, 10st 9lb, 7/1), Mysteree (Michael Scudamore, 10st 3lb, 12/1), Sir Mangan (Dan Skelton, 10st 3lb, 16/1), Alfie Spinner (Kerry Lee, 9st 12lb, 20/1) and Krackatoa King (Kerry Lee, 9st 6lb, 25/1).
Betfred Grand National Trial, Betfred bet: 11/4 Blaklion; 5/1 The Dutchman; 7/1 Wild West Wind, Three Faces West; 8/1 Vieux Lion Rouge, Daklondike; 12/1 Mysteree; 16/1 Captain Chaos, Silsol, Emperor's Choice, Yala Enki, Sir Mangan; 20/1 Alfie Spinner; 25/1 Krackatoa King, Joe Farrell
EW: 1/4 1, 2, 3
Haydock Park's seven-race card on Saturday runs from 1.30pm through to 5.00pm.
The main supporting action comes from two G2 contests - the £40,000 Betfred Rendlesham Hurdle (2.05pm, 14 entries) over two miles and seven furlongs, and the £30,000 Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle (4.25pm, 13 entries) over the same distance.