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.
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