Trainer Robert Walford is wary of the extra weight Walk In The Mill must carry as he bids for his own piece of Aintree history with a third successive win in the William Hill Becher Chase.
Two other horses have won the race twice, Into The Red and Hello Bud, but even they did not manage to win it back-to-back as Walk In The Mill has.
His task is distinctly harder this time around from a mark 12lb higher than his first win, and he is rising 11, but he showed up well for a long way on his comeback at Ascot to suggest all his ability remains.
“He’s in really good form but he’s obviously got more weight than he’s had in previous years. We’re hopeful of a good run,” said Dorset handler Walford.
“He always needs his first run of the year really. I was quite happy with the way he ran at Ascot. I thought he ran quite nicely.”
Ben Pauling is hoping Le Breuil can build on his solid first attempt over the Grand National fences 12 months ago when he has his second crack at the race this weekend.
Winner of the National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in 2019, Le Breuil ran better than his seventh place would suggest.
“He’s in great order with himself. He ran well in the race last year, so I’m expecting another big run from him this year,” said the Cotswolds trainer.
“He obviously loved the fences last year. Hopefully he’s in as good a form as I can have him going into the race.
“It was nice to see him in the form of old up at Kelso. We look forward to a big run on Saturday.”
Last year’s runner-up Kimberlite Candy has also risen in the weights, but his trainer Tom Lacey believes the eight-year-old can handle that now.
“He does have a lot more weight to carry than last year, when he was second, but he is another year stronger,” he said.
“He’s been a late-maturing horse all the way through his life, and I think he’s the finished article now – so I can’t wait.
“He ran an absolute belter in the race last year and he is going back having run a career-best in the Classic Chase at Warwick last time out.”
Alex Hales cannot wait to pitch Smooth Stepper over the Aintree fences. The 11-year-old won the Grand National Trial at Haydock in February, and shaped well on his comeback run at Sandown four weeks ago.
“It’s a race I’ve always wanted to run him in, and I thought he ran very well in his prep race at Sandown on unsuitable ground,” he said.
“He comes here, and it looks like the ground is going to be in his favour.
“I thought he proved at Sandown he could be competitive off his new handicap mark – and he’s in very good order.
“I’m looking forward to it. He looks an ideal type for the race.”
Vieux Lion Rouge, the winner in 2016, makes his fifth consecutive appearance in the three-and-a-quarter-mile contest and is one of two runners from the David Pipe stable.
“He ran well the other day. It was a pipe opener for this and he qualified for the veterans’ final as well so it served its purpose – he’s come on a lot from there,” Pipe said in a call hosted by Great British Racing.
“He’s working as well up the gallops now as he was three years ago. He has dropped down the weights but he lights up for this occasion, and he’s not without a shout.”
Pipe has a second string to his bow in Ramses De Teillee, who put up a gutsy display to land a narrow victory at Cheltenham last time.
“He’s a better horse on softer ground and he should get that on Saturday,” said the Nicolashayne trainer.
“He’s going back to Aintree for a second time – which can be a thing. A lot of jockeys and trainers will tell you most horses will do something well once, it’s the second time you have to be wary.
“Hopefully, because of the softer ground, they won’t go as quick, and he’ll be in his comfort zone.”