Nicholls mob-handed in National

Champion trainer Paul Nicholls has 10 of the 102 initial entries for the John Smith’s Grand National at Aintree in April.

Champion trainer Paul Nicholls has 10 of the 102 initial entries for the John Smith’s Grand National at Aintree in April.

Saturday’s Cheltenham winner Neptune Collonges is joined by stablemates What A Friend, The Tother One, Tricky Trickster, Taranis and Niche Market among others as Nicholls searches his first ever National success.

The Donald McCain-trained Ballabriggs is favourite with some bookmakers after winning over hurdles at Ayr earlier this week, while last year’s winner Don’t Push It is in the mix again along with fellow Jonjo O’Neill inmate Synchronised, winner of the Welsh National last month.

David Pipe’s 2008 scorer Comply Or Die could line up again as a 12-year-old, while the Evan Williams-trained State Of Play, mercurial talent Tidal Bay and Ferdy Murphy’s Big Fella Thanks are other interesting contenders.

Notre Pere finished fifth over the National fences in November’s Becher Chase and is set to return to Merseyside for the big one on April 9.

The 10-year-old has recently moved from Jim Dreaper to the care of Barry Potts and the new trainer is dreaming of Aintree glory.

“The Grand National is definitely the aim for Notre Pere,” said Potts.

“He came to me just after the Lexus Chase and the owners hope that the change of scenery will do him good.

“We will probably look to give him one run over hurdles and then head straight to Aintree with him.

“I did his pre-training before he went to Jim Dreaper’s and he has always struck me as the kind of horse who was made for Aintree – he is such a monster and he seems to jump normal fences so effortlessly.

“His run in the Becher Chase was very good considering he was hampered several times.”

Among the other Irish-trained entries are the Edward O’Grady-trained Tranquil Sea, winner of the Grade One John Durkan Memorial Chase at Punchestown on his latest start, Noel Glynn’s stable star Becauseicouldntsee, the Martin Lynch-trained Oscar Time and Gordon Elliott’s Backstage, who unseated his rider in the 2010 race.

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