At next months Grand National at Aintree, Many Clouds will look to become the first horse to successfully defend its title since the legendary Red Rum in 1974. However, before his date with destiny, trainer Oliver Sherwood looks set to use the Gold Cup at the Cheltenham Festival next week as a test of his horse’s credentials. Having lost the chance of a run at Kelso on Saturday, after a heavy downfall left the Scottish circuit waterlogged, Sherwood is now looking to the Gold Cup if another potential replacement race can not be found, which now looks increasingly unlikely.

With just three weeks separating the Gold Cup and the Grand National, it is certainly not ideal preparation for the Aintree favourite. Going into the National having been handed the top weight of 11st 10lb, the horse is now just a pound heavier than when he claimed victory in 2015. With the magnitude of two of the UK & Irelands most famous racing fixtures growing every year, 2016’s coverage is set to reach new heights. With prize money for the two events reaching record highs, as well as an all time peak in attendances, attention on this years races are set to be huge. Many Clouds is currently the joint favourite for the Grand National with Silviniaco Conti at 12/1 with Coral, and with his Gold Cup future still up in the air, Many Clouds can be backed at 33/1 to claim a surprise win at Cheltenham.

With five of the first six horse’s home in the 2015 Grand National being among the 126 initial entries for this year’s race, Many Clouds is certain not to have things all his own way at Aintree. Shutthefrontdoor and fellow possible Gold Cup runner Don Poli are potential Grand National tips and the two horses could potentially provide us with a victory from an outsider.

With such competition in the field this time around, we could see a repeat of the closest finish in history when Neptune Collonges denied Sunnyhillboy by a nose, back in 2012.

The Last Samuri, 14/1 for the Grand National with Coral, further demonstrated his potential this past weekend with a win at Doncaster in the Grimthorpe Chase. Despite the fact that he is now unable to add any mass before the big race after the Aintree weights were finalized last month, trainer Kim Bailey will be quietly confident of her horse mounting a strong challenge.