I think this eight-year-old has the perfect profile for the world’s greatest race. He jumps, stays and could still be on the upgrade, although you could easily be forgiven he was finished judging by his first two starts this season.
Beaten by an accumulated 169 lengths on his first two starts, it seemed that the son of Milan had ‘gone at the game’.
What was even more unfathomable was that the handicapper dropped him just 1lb for those abominations!
Then came the Leinster National and we finally saw a semblance of form from this former Shyest winner when he made eye-catching late headway to finish a never nearer sixth of 17 behind Pairofbrownies.
There was plenty more left in the tank when he crossed the line and although the assessor hasn’t really relented, he remains a work in progress and at 66/1 he is the best each-way value left in the race ba none!
A point to point winner and an above average staying novice hurdle, Dounikos finally found his niche when he went chasing culminating in a grade two success at Limerick and then a close up fourth in the Flogas Novice Chase at Leopardstown.
But then his form seemed to fall to pieces when he was pulled up in three successive contests, albeit they came in a couple of grade one events and the Irish Grand National.
However, the eight-year-old has gradually worked his way back to form this season culminating in a highly impressive four and a quarter length success in the Grand National Trial at Fairyhouse, just about a career best performance.
But the key factor in that form revival has been the ground. There is little doubt that a genuinely sound surface suits him best and if the Aintree going continues to dry out, despite a 7lbs rise in the weights, he could be the joker in the pack. Oh and did I mention he also has the services of the brilliant Jack Kennedy!
It is worth reiterating that more rain would compromise his chances in the marathon contest.
When this David Pipe chaser came with a late rattle to get to within a whisker of catching Joe Farrell in the Scottish National I earmarked this lightly raced individual as my main punting selection for this year’s Aintree spectacular.
However, since that run the wheels have rather fallen off his wagon with a sixth placed run in the Welsh National and then last time out when he was pulled up in the Grand National Trial at Haydock after jumping like a donkey at the Lancashire track.
However, there is still plenty of hope for this son of Old Vic and it comes from his opening salvo this season when he was in the process of running well over the big fences at Aintree in November.
Held up at the back of the pack in the Becher Chase, the nine-year-old was making stealthy headway on the outside and looking a huge danger when he came to grief at the 11th.
Jockey Tom Bellamy reported that his mount was brilliant over the obstacles in the first half of the race and was a closing fourth when he clipped the top of the fence. If anything he was travelling too well, too exuberantly and had plenty more left to give.
Drying ground would be a bonus to him as well even though the Becher was run on a soft surface and he remains only 6lbs higher than at Ayr.
*All odds correct at time of posting