Dunne deal for Beauchene
Robbie Dunne's heroics on Rigadin De Beauchene earnt him another moment in the limelight in Saturday's Betfred Grand National Trial at Haydock.
It has been tough for the 27-year-old Irishman to establish himself in the pecking order at the Venetia Williams yard, especially with stable jockey Aidan Coleman going strong, but Dunne is the only rider to have won on this particular gelding and has has made the mount his own.
Still claiming a valuable 3lb, the conditional produced probably the recovery of the season to cling on to Rigadin De Beauchene after a terrible mistake at Newbury and still manage to finish third, while he went on to find a vital half a length more than Godsmejudge in a driving finish in the Classic Chase at Warwick.
"His jumping wasn't too good at Newbury that day, but, touch-wood, he's usually a very good jumper," said Dunne.
"He just loses concentration during races sometimes, and you've got to keep at him. He has shown he handles testing conditions and he proved his stamina at Warwick. Let's hope he'll be good enough."
Dunne, from Garristown, in a rural part of Fingal, did not actually sit on a horse until he was 14 and his only link with racing was through an uncle who trained a handful of horses.
While establishing himself has been tough for this late-starter, he is determined to make his mark.
"I came over a couple of years ago and getting the rides is the hardest bit," he said.
"I ride out for Venetia Williams, Andrew Price and just about everyone I can. It's hard going, but hopefully Saturday will provide a good bit of publicity."
There will not be a more popular winner than Silver By Nature, with Lucinda Russell's grey attempting to lift the prize for the third time.
He has been sidelined with a leg injury since the 2011 Grand National, and Russell admits the absence is a concern.
"He has been ready to run since after Christmas and while he's extremely tough and genuine, he does seem to need his first run of the season," she said.
"He is really, really well and I fancy him to run a big race on Saturday, but we've been here before with him. He has been off for quite a long time, and being an older horse, the question of him needing the run is obvious.
"We've done everything we can to put plenty of work into him, and ideally we would have liked to have got a race into him first, but that hasn't been possible.
"It's the right track, right ground, right trip - it's just the race."
Silver By Nature was 12th at Aintree, but has not been entered this time.
Russell said: "The owner wasn't that keen. He'd much rather win the Scottish National and that's a realistic option, if the ground was suitable."
Giles Cross is another returning champion, having narrowly beaten subsequent National winner Neptune Collonges 12 months ago.
A subsequent disappointment at Aintree, he was also pulled up in the Welsh National on his return.
"I feel very happy going into Saturday's race," said trainer Victor Dartnall.
"He's had an uninterrupted preparation since the Welsh National. The horses are coming to form, and the going will be heavy, which is an added bonus."
Trainer Michael Scudamore is thinking in a different direction with Monbeg Dude, who was given a tremendous waiting ride from Paul Carberry to defeat Teaforthree, who renews rivalry, in the Welsh National.
Scudamore said: "He came out of the race in great form. It was probably the genius of Paul Carberry that did it, but the day after he was out in the field bucking and kicking.
"He hardly knew he had a run somehow so we couldn't be happier with how he is. Paul is a masterful rider and I'll leave it up to him.
"Three miles, four (furlongs) on heavy ground should be absolutely ideal for him. On a flatter track they might go that stride faster, but round Haydock in those sort of conditions will be a test of stamina and hopefully that will suit him the best."
Looking ahead with Monbeg Dude, who is owned by rugby players James Simpson-Daniel, Mike Tindall and Nicky Robinson, Scudamore told At The Races: "He has a Gold Cup entry and he will have an entry in the three-mile handicap there as well.
"The owners are very keen to have a go in the Gold Cup if Saturday all went well and it came up heavy ground at Cheltenham or certainly soft ground. They are all in the pipeline and lovely targets to have."
Gary Moore fields an interesting runner for shrewd owner Patrick Wilmott in the shape of Well Refreshed.
A recruit from the retired Peter Winkworth, he beat Rigadin De Beauchene at Lingfield and, one fall at the same track aside, could even have landed his last four starts.
Well Refreshed took the Sussex National at Plumpton last time and Moore said: "We had always hoped he'd be a decent chaser but he fell first time at Fontwell and it took a long time to get him back.
"This is the best race he has run in off his highest mark but he stays well and stays well in that sort of ground when others won't. Conditions should be perfect."
Brian Ellison's Neptune Equester has shown decent form at Haydock before, and pleased on his only outing since finishing 13th in the National.
"He won over hurdles at Wetherby on his first run back. He seemed to enjoy himself and hopefully he's fresh and ready to go on Saturday," said jockey Danny Cook.
Cannington Brook won the Tommy Whittle Chase on this track in December and was second to Carruthers at Ffos Las in very testing conditions just two weeks ago.
Trainer Colin Tizzard said: "He did have a hard race and the ground at Ffos Las was sticky. What he does love is sloshy ground and he does perform very well at Haydock, so this is probably his championship race.
"He's a big, strong horse and is showing all the signs that his last race didn't tire him out. He was fine after the race - he was back cantering shortly afterwards. He looks fantastic, so it's all go."
Nick Scholfield is having a tremendous season with more than a half-century of winners, capped by a Grade One success on Melodic Rendezvous.
He teams up with Welsh National second Teaforthree as trainer Rebecca Curtis explores options with regular rider Tony McCoy almost certain to be required by retained owner JP McManus at Aintree.
"I'm really looking forward to it. It's good ride to get and hopefully all goes well," Scholfield said.
"He ran a great race in the Welsh National and we're better off at the weights with Monbeg Dude. He's a true stayer, but he does have a touch of class as well."
Scholfield explained how he came to get the ride.
"I've ridden for Rebecca in the past. Obviously AP (McCoy) will probably be claimed by JP McManus in the National so they are just trying to sort out plans when he is unavailable," he said.
"We'll have to see about the National. I'm sure if AP was available he'd be on him. I'm having a brilliant season and winning a Grade One on Melodic Rendezvous was good."