The Druids Nephew went into the 2015 Grand National as one of the fancied runners to win the world famous steeplechase at the first time of asking. He led the field with six fences to go but unfortunately made a mistake and came down leaving Many Clouds to win the race for trainer Oliver Sherwood.
The plan this year is for The Druids Nephew to return to Aintree where he will be a year wiser and can learn from his appearance around the Merseyside track over the bigger fences, which could make him a main win selection in Grand National 2016.
By the time the 2016 Grand National comes along, The Druids Nephew will be nine years old and that is around the optimum age you want to be looking for when selecting a Grand National runner.
Neil Mullholland’s runner started his campaign at Wetherby on Saturday in the West Yorkshire Hurdle. That was purely used as an outing to shake off the cobwebs. A decision is likely to be made over the next couple of weeks about his next participation which could be the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury.
The nearest challenger to The Druids Nephew in the betting at this stage of the season is Many Clouds, who will be looking to become the first horse since Red Rum in 1974 to win back-to-back runnings of the 4m4f contest. Many have tried to defend their crown the following year but the fact that no horse has done so in 41 years suggests how difficult that is.
Many Clouds may have to do so from top weight so he will need to carry much more on his back than last year if he is to defy the stats that are against him.
Owner Trevor Hemmings has already ruled his start out of the Hennessy Gold Cup as he does not want his horse to carry 16lb more than last season in the race he won at Newbury. If the extra weight is concerning connections for the Hennessy, it may also worry them about running their horse in the Grand National once again.
Jockey Paul Maloney has an excellent record in the Grand National in recent years. Since 2013, he has finished fourth or better on his mount in the showpiece race at Aintree and next year he is likely to again pair Alvarado, who should be considered as an each-way selection.
If Alvarado does line up in the Grand National once again in 2016, it will be his third attempt. In 2014 he finished fourth on his debut in the race won by Pineau De Re when going off at 33-1. Meanwhile, 12 months ago, he also came home fourth in another solid round of jumping.
Certain horses either love the big challenge that the big fences at Aintree put in front of them, while others absolutely hate them. It is fair to say Alvarado falls into the former category.