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Saturday, 23rd Oct 2021

Warwickshire’s Blaklion is an Aintree contender

It’s fair to say that Blaklion has been around the block. At eight-years-old and at the peak of his powers, there wasn’t much the Nigel Twiston-Davies mount seemingly couldn’t do. Now, the former Grand National entrant is four years older and in the capable hands of Warwickshire-based Dan Skelton.

Dan Skelton and his family-friendly yard are viewed as England’s answer to the plethora of Irish talent that comes over to the UK and dominates the Spring festivals at Cheltenham and Aintree. This year has been scintillating, with to date 116 winners enhancing his reputation. However, it’s fair to say Blaklion is a bit of a long shot. Will he even make it to Aintree in April?

A Race Against Time

Everything looked rosy back in early February. The entrants for the 2021 Grand National were announced and Blaklion was on the shortlist. In fact, he was the only Skelton mount in the race, adding extra pressure to his broad shoulders. Unfortunately, not a couple of days later, it emerged the horse tweaked a ligament and had a minor setback.

Although it wasn’t massive, it was enough for the bookmakers to react, ranking Blaklion as a 40-1 chance according to 2021 Grand National odds. Thankfully for Warwickshire’s racing enthusiasts, the former star hasn’t been pulled out, nor is he by any means at the bottom of the listings. Still, it wouldn’t be a shock if he didn’t make it when the starter’s flag drops in April.

An Impressive Former Record

Part of the reason Skelton took the horse on was because of his previous outings in the Grand National. So, 40-1 won’t phase him too much at all. Sure, just because Blaklion has performed admirably well in the past doesn’t mean he’ll be in fighting form in a month. However, if he does make it – something his trainer is aiming to do –  it could be a fairy tale.

As favourite in 2017, Blaklion was yards clear of the rest, seemingly with the race at his mercy. Sadly, his stamina proved flawed and the main man ended up placing fourth. Twelve months later, he had no luck whatsoever, being brought down, rather than making a mess of a fence and being his own worst enemy. 

There’s no doubt the gelding has potential for the big prize, even at an age with some of his best days behind him. Therefore, everyone in Warwickshire should hope Skelton and his team can get Blaklion to Merseyside as there might yet be fireworks.

A Promising Ascot Ride  

Although Blaklion hasn’t run since tweaking a ligament last October, there was plenty of cause for excitement. He was rusty, but he was evidently a lot sharper for the race, impressing his trainer who thought it might take a bit longer for his charge to get to race fitness.  

The ring rust will still be there in April because it’s unlikely the gelding will get many further pre-Aintree opportunities. He’s shown some of his racing zest in runs at Warwick and Newcastle, before dropping out when push comes to shove. However, the plan is to give him a further run before Aintree. If that happens, his current odds could be very different on race day, particularly if the handicapper is nice after he was allotted one of the top weights in February.  

For the pride of Warwickshire, we hope the veteran gets there and does the county proud. Blaklion deserves one more crack at the big time.

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