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.
28 July 2014Quick picks off Galway rivals
Lion could roar in Champion Stakes
Time out for Carpenter
Beckett considers Gesture gameplan
PJA hits out at ERA Cosgrave case
Pitt ponders Sir Stewards' run
Bird in full flight for Nassau
Chopin team wait on softer ground
Beacon leads Hannon trio
Toormore on Goodwood mission
Options open for Approval
Star duo head Sussex field
Pallasator states case for Ebor
Custom a cut above
Harty doubles up in Galway feature
Munich Mission impossible
Jinx on a high in France
Cox plays it cool with Kodi
Girl given Lowther target
Burke looking to Curragh
Hanagan hails Taghrooda
Toormore drops in class for Lennox
27 July 2014Beacon shines over Molecomb rivals
Miss skips Galway for Goodwood
Tag crowned queen of Ascot
Muthmir delivers in Dash
Metal proves International star
Sheikh pounces for late score
Kingman poised for showdown
Kleo hits top gear for Cumani
Dettori strikes on Osaila
Bear grills Winkfield rivals
Yorkshire Oaks target for Volume
26 July 2014Taghrooda queen of Ascot
Elleval bids for Pomfret prize
Noble primed for German mission
O'Meara duo going International
Tag team happy to have a go
Telescope reaches for stars
Euro chasing dollar signs
Estimate given Goodwood entry
Pique Sous out for season
Secret chasing York success
Reason aiming to deliver in Dash
Remote on comeback trail
25 July 2014Hughes misses Newmarket rides
Bill seeks International acclaim
Tag team have a crack at George
Telescope has record in sights
Nicholls pays tribute to Business
Flintshire misses George date
Hills reveals positive test horse
Kennedy floored on Leopardstown bow
Candy sweet on hot-shot Alonsoa
Big guns in Irish Champion frame
Farraaj sidesteps York return
Classy entries for Champagne
Stars align for Sussex showdown
Kiyoshi dips in grade for Valiant
Gosden waits on Eagle call
Horsted heads International runners