A step back to two and a quarter miles on softer ground was no good to my selection at Thurles two weeks ago, but back at three, and on a better racing surface, Andrew Lynch's mount is expected to take another step forward.
Yanworth, disappointing when favourite for the Champion Hurdle, should redeem his reputation now he tackles three miles for the first time.
JP McManus's seven-year-old went off a well-backed market leader at Cheltenham on the strength of a CV that included just one hurdles defeat from eight starts.
But those who joined in the gamble must have felt uneasy from an early stage - Yanworth hit the third flight and Mark Walsh, standing in for the sidelined Barry Geraghty, began to get agitated soon after halfway.
Yanworth couldn't go with the principals on the run to the second-last but did keep on up the hill to finish seventh, albeit at a respectful 14 lengths, behind Buveur D'Air.
He'd given the impression he'd stay further when scoring over two and a half miles at Cheltenham in January , so should thrive for the new distance.
Cole Harden found the ground softer than he liked when fourth in the Stayers' Hurdle, but should find these conditions ideal. Hemmings has seen his colours carried to success by Hedgehunter , Ballabriggs and the much-loved - but ill-starred - Many Clouds After Many Clouds lost his life at Cheltenham in January, Hemmings embarked on a search for a horse to carry his hopes at Aintree this year - and the Paul Nicholls-trained Vicente is the result.
The eight-year-old is already a 'National' winner - he landed the Scottish version at Ayr last April. My selection hasn't got within a stone of that form this winter, falling in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury in November before finishing a well-held sixth in the Welsh Grand National at Chepstow over Christmas.
But that cloud of uninspiring returns has a silver lining - the handicapper has dropped the son of the late, lamented stallion Dom Alco - a renowned stamina influence and the sire of Nicholls' National winner Neptune Collonges - to a British Horseracing Authority rating of That's just 1lb more than the handicap mark from which he won the Scottish National, and Nicholls reports the bay to be "the picture of health" now the spring weather has arrived.
Brian Hughes, one of the finest horsemen in the weighing room, takes the mount, and Vicente's sound jumping technique and proven staying power make him the prime candidate for honours.
After his second of 12 months ago, The Last Samuri will have his supporters to go one better, but is 12lb higher this time around. Both Ucello Conti, sixth last year, and seventh-placed Vieux Lion Rouge warrant a second look - the former will find this afternoon's faster ground more to his liking, while the latter has improved.
Cause Of Causes won at Cheltenham but isn't the easiest to predict, while Definitly Red is well handicapped but has his stamina to prove. Blaklion hails from a stable that has won the National twice and merits consideration, along with Shantou Flyer, who looks capable of running above his outsider's odds.
The Ian Williams trainee, a winner on the Flat, got off the mark over hurdles at the third time of asking when scoring by four lengths in a maiden event at Huntingdon in the middle of last month.
Williams saddled the four-year-old for the juvenile handicap hurdle on at Ascot six days ago and So Celebre looked a well-handicapped horse in beating Dolos by two and three-quarter lengths.
Williams has secured the services of going-places conditional jockey David Noonan to do the steering on So Celebre, who clearly goes well on spring terrain, has plenty more to come in this sphere.
Dangers lurk at every corner, but Wakea, who did too much early on when 11th behind Arctic Fire in the County Hurdle at Cheltenham last month, tops the list of dangers.
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