Wheeler at ease as big day looms
Felix Wheeler has waited a long time for his chance to ride over the National fences and his moment arrives on Thursday.
The retired Army major spent more than 20 years in the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, serving in Kosovo and reached the position of Crown Equerry, in charge of the Queen's travel arrangements, her horses, coaches and cars.
Nowadays, he is a recognisable figure around the southern circuit as a British Horseracing Authority judge, and he takes to the track on his own horse, Dead Or Alive, in the Crabbie's Supporting The Hillsborough Families Fox Hunters' Chase.
"I just can't wait to get on with it," said Wheeler, who rides out at Gary Moore's stable during the week and believes he has competed in Sandown's Grand Military Gold Cup more times than anyone else.
"I tried twice before, years ago now, to get in but got balloted out and I suppose at the age of 52 I'll be the oldest in the race.
"The horse got around the course when he was trained by Tim Vaughan in 2011, where I understand he had an interrupted preparation. He jumped round well and just got tired.
"This time he has had the perfect preparation, and we've been waiting to run ever since he qualified for Aintree by finishing second at Huntingdon in February.
"There are only 22 in at the moment, so hopefully we'll have some space by the time The Chair comes and he'll give me a great spin."
Dead Or Alive is one of three representatives for young East Sussex trainer Rose Grissell along with Orfeo Conti and Brunswick Gold.
The field also includes last year's 100/1 winner, the Scottish-trained Tartan Snow, the mount of crack amateur Derek O'Connor.
Northern Irish-trained Warne, a recent purchase by Robert Waley-Cohen, is ridden by his son, Sam, a specialist over the fences who is set to partner Long Run in the main event itself on Saturday.
The prolific Mossey Joe has also been declared by Enda Bolger after connections had opted to swerve the Grand National with the Barry Connell-owned 11-year-old.