Trainer Kim Bailey believes a return to better ground will bring out the best in The Rainbow Hunter in the John Smith's Grand National at Aintree on April 6.
A winner at Ascot on his seasonal return in November, The Rainbow Hunter was pulled up in a bog at Chepstow next time but ran more encouragingly when fourth in a Listed event at Ascot on his latest appearance.
The progressive nine-year-old is one of 73 horses going forward for the National following the first scratchings deadline. Bailey, who landed the 1990 Grand National with Mr Frisk, said: "The Rainbow Hunter is still on course for the Grand National. He came out of his run at Ascot very well and I think he will improve for that."
The trainer went on: "He wants good ground - it was very gluey at Ascot. He found it hard to jump out of that ground because he is not very big and finds it quite difficult. He will go on soft but not when the going is like that. He seems to stay well and his size wouldn't concern me around Aintree because I ran Docklands Express around there and he was smaller. It all depends on how they jump.
"I'm hoping there is more to come from him because he seems to be improving and I think the ground will make a big difference. He is in at Cheltenham but I have not made a decision about whether or not he runs there first."
Donald McCain enjoyed a memorable victory in the 2011 National with Ballabriggs, and the 12-year-old is among the Cheshire handler's four remaining entries for this year's renewal.
McCain said: "Everything has gone smoothly with Ballabriggs' preparation this time - we are very happy with him. He will complete his preparation in the same Kelso event he has run in for the last two years. He is 12 years old but Amberleigh House won it at 12. Ballabriggs is an Aintree horse - he likes the place.
"Weird Al was running a nice race last year when he fell at the fourth-last. His form has been disappointing this season but he is a little bit that way. He seemed to be taking to Aintree quite well last year. It was slightly unusual that Across The Bay's last race was over hurdles but he won a Grade Two at Haydock.
"He stays, he jumps and is a young and improving horse, who is going the right way. If he took to the place, he could run a massive race."
Irish champion trainer Willie Mullins has four remaining contenders, headed by On His Own and Prince De Beauchene. The trainer has, however, scratched Call The Police. Gordon Elliott captured the John Smith's Grand National in 2007 with Silver Birch and has six contenders going forward, headlined by Chicago Grey and Roi Du Mee. Seabass, Wyck Hill and Join Together all remain in the mix. Call The Police is one of 11 scratchings, with the injured Tidal Bay taken out as expected.
19 September 2014Bolster back on Gold trail
Glorious bids to protect Legacy
Fahey chasing Newmarket Millions
Time called on Dude career
Makin off to a flyer at Ayr
Festival stalwart Celestial retired
Guest banking on Memory at Ayr
Dettori sweet on World rule
Baraweez on track for Ascot
Maguire raring to go
Watchable handed low Gold draw
Palmer mulls Aktabantay options
Bronze seeking Newmarket gold
18 September 2014Breathing operation for Cue Card
Early conclusion to Levy agreement
Johnson Houghton hearing date set
Walker looks to future with Moon
Red-hot Kirby in Sandown treble
Listed honours for Hadaatha
Busy bags another National
Botti lines up Newmarket raid
Vintage performance from Weld filly
Cup dreams in mind for Forever
Weld prepares Newmarket challenge
McGrath and Walton charged by BHA
Encke camp ponder next move
17 September 2014Street Cry dies, aged 16
Luck be a Lady in Cheveley Park
Appleby won't Abandon hope
Glenalmond disrupted by setback
Judgement day looms for Benoist
Toocool in Mill Reef frame
Time out for Panama
Adelaide backed to shine in Plate
Ascot to offer Irish incentive
Ryan advises caution on Gatsby run
Goodwood work forces race changes
Cosgrave hits out at ERA decision
Twilight takes Thirsk triumph
Ayr hero Ramius set to retire
Sea The Moon forced to retire
Lantern shines in morning spin
Simcock maps out plan for star pair
Max powered up for Abbaye
16 September 2014O'Meara waits on Watchable call
Arc an option for classy Dolniya
Smurfer seeking National glory
Cosgrave put on ERA forfeit list
Belardo remains on road to Dewhurst
Cullen leads tributes to Brady
QEII beckons for Tonto
Murtagh cool on Royal Cup raid
Murtagh salutes Champions Weekend
Weighty issue for Ed's Red
Weighty issue for Ed's Red
Malabar earmarked for Boussac
Ivanhowe Arc ride in demand
Groove on for Cesarewitch bid
All-weather finals day on Channel 4
Watchable leads Gold Cup contenders
Limato leads Reef contenders
Toast confirmed for Classic chance
Classic hopes for Connection
Estimate to skip Melbourne trip
Rizeena set to race on