Grand National 2016
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Festival winners enhance Grand National claims

The Crabbie’s Grand National is the next big feature of the National Hunt season, and Cause Of Causes and The Druids Nephew emerged as leading contenders for the Aintree spectacular with successes at the Cheltenham Festival.

Cause of Causes provided leading Irish owner JP McManus with a birthday winner when landing the Toby Balding National Hunt Chase over 4m, and was cut to 25/1 (from 33s) with Coral for National glory on Saturday, April 11th.

The Gordon Elliott trained gelding was always travelling sweetly under crack amateur pilot Jamie Codd and when his jockey asked him for his effort as the field bypassed the final fence the seven-year-old stayed on strongly to record a 1 1/2 length success over Broadway Buffalo.

There was plenty to like about the way Cause Of Causes travelled powerfully throughout in a race run at a strong gallop, and the way he finished off the race suggested the extra half mile at Aintree would not be a problem.

Elliott also knows what is required to win the famous race having saddled Silver Birch to land the spoils in 2007, and Cause Of Causes is guaranteed to get in the line-up as he is currently 27th in the list of remaining entries.

Cause of Causes also looks on a handy weight off 10st 9lb, and there is lots to like about his profile heading into the contest.

I can see him going well, and at the odds on offer he is a definite each-way player.

The Druids Nephew gave trainer Neil Mulholland his first Cheltenham Festival winner when romping home in the Ultima Business Solutions Handicap Chase, and was cut to 14/1 third favourite for the National (from 33s) by Coral.

The eight-year-old stalked the field in the hands of jockey Barry Geraghty and after being produced to lead on the bridle two from home surged clear to beat Grand Gesture by 3 3/4 lengths in the 3m 1f contest.

It was a very taking performance indeed, but Mulholland would not commit himself to The Druids Nephew definitely running at Aintree immediately after the race.

He said: “This is our World Cup and this is where we want to be – it’s the big stage and we’re on it today. It’s a fantastic feeling and will take a while to sink in.

“We’ll worry about today for now – today was always a stop towards the National, but I’ll have a word with Barry and see how we get on. I’m not going to talk the National up at this stage.”

However, I can’t see connections not letting The Druids Nephew take his chance as he looks well-in at the weights off just 10st 9lb.

The big question is whether he has the stamina required as the son of King’s Theatre has not gone beyond 3m 3f in his career and hasn’t always looke dthe strongest of finishers.

Another slight cause for concern is that The Druids Nephew has the tendency to clout the odd fence, and for me I would prefer the chances of Cause Of Causes in the stamina sapping contest.