Check out HHO’s top three horses for this year’s running of the “world’s greatest steeplechase”

Paris Pike, among the classiest chasers in Saturday’s Martell Grand National, is poised to fulfil the ultimate dream of his owner Ivan Straker.

A highly emotional man, Straker admitted to suffering from big race nerves on Thursday. He looked out across the course as it dried under the April sun and said: “This is perfect for Paris Pike. There will be no excuses for him. I am getting very excited.

Paris Pike ran away with the Scottish National two years ago and looked destined to become a top chaser, but he developed a tendon problem and had a year off. That lengthy absence has seen a slight decline in his talents.

Paris Pike will be partnered by last year’s winning jockey Richard Guest, who takes over from the injured Adrian Maguire, sidelined with a broken neck.

Straker said: “Richard is the perfect person to get your horse round Aintree. The ultimate sympathetic horseman, as he showed on Red Marauder last year.”

Champion trainer Martin Pipe saddles seven runners, the pick of which is Tony McCoy’s mount Blowing Wind who was remounted before finishing third last year.

Smarty, who chased home Red Marauder, is reported in good form by trainer Mark Pitman, whose family have a long association with the National. His mother Jenny won the race twice with Corbiere and Royal Athlete. Smarty clearly loves galloping round Aintree. He followed up his second to Red Marauder with another second to Amberleigh House (who has not made the cut) in the Becher Chase in November.

Selections:

  1. Paris Pike.
  2. Blowing Wind.
  3. Smarty.

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