The positive effects of an easy, confidence-boosting success should never be underestimated in racing as they often provide a potent catalyst for improvement or resurgence, which has been the case for my Grand National selection, Saphir Du Rheu.
His facile victory over much inferior opposition at Kelso in February – his first success for more than 15 months – has prompted a rediscovery of enthusiasm and form as he showcased with a fine effort in the Timico Gold Cup at the recent Cheltenham Festival.
The level of that performance is far above anything he has achieved since his novice chasing days, when he looked a top-class prospect, and, at last, he seems ready to fulfil that early potential.
He raced just behind the pace at Cheltenham and impressed with his economical jumping, an area that warranted concern not so long ago.
While never looking like the winner, he kept on solidly from the final fence and was beaten just over six lengths in a race that was run in a good time. Armed with this form, the Handicapper would surely have allotted him more weight.
The Young Master has looked a Grand National type for some time and, while his fall here in December was disappointing, there was much to admire in his staying-on sixth at Cheltenham last month. It appeared to be an ideal preparation.
Stamina will certainly not be an issue, nor will the decent ground he will encounter, and the assistance of amateur rider Sam Waley-Cohen, who has a fine record over these fences, can be seen as a strong positive, too.
While Vincente’s season has been something of a let-down considering how well he won the Scottish Grand National last April, the Form Book suggests he is a spring horse and enjoys fast ground. Conditions have come right for him and it would be no surprise if he bounces back. Certainly, Trevor Hemmings, his new owner, saw something that appealed enough to buy the gelding not long ago and he would know a Grand National horse, having owned three previous winners.
Double Shuffle looks a massive price at 50-1. He has a strongly progressive profile, jumps for fun and acts well on the ground. He is also ridden by a top rider, who passed over Aintree specialist Saint Are to ride him. With most bookmakers paying down to fifth place, he appeals as a solid each-way proposition.
Plenty of others make appeal in an open year, but perhaps the pick of the rest is Cause of Causes. He revelled in the demands of the Cross Country race at the recent Cheltenham Festival and it takes an agile horse that can get into a relaxed rhythm to excel in that sphere, much as it does in this race.
Remarkably, it was the third time he had won at the Festival, having landed the 2016 Kim Muir – a race that has proven a strong National pointer in the past – and in the four-mile National Hunt Chase in 2015, so he has plenty of stamina.
His form credentials are hard to fault but in recent years he has struggled to string two races together and that is of sufficiently-strong concern to justify passing him over. He should go well, though.
We may have had 170 years to work out a system for finding the winner of the Randox Health Grand National but, if anything , it is getting harder rather than easier. A pin or a name with some sort of attachment has probably never been more useful.
That said I have picked four horses from which I believe the winner will come; The Last Samuri, Highland Lodge, The Young Master and Wonderful Charm which raises the prospect of Katie Walsh becoming the first female jockey to win the race.
The Last Samuri is not big and has top weight but he loves the course, will get into a rhythm and should again finish in the top half dozen. The Young Master has the not inconsiderable advantage of amateur Sam Waley-Cohen in the plate, has been trained very much with this race in mind and warmed up nicely at Cheltenham. He has the combination of class and weight to win.
Highland Lodge is another to have won and been second on his last two visits to Aintree in the Becher Chase, loves the place and having not run since December is coming here fresh and yet trained to the minute.
Wonderful Charm has also had the benefit of light season and finished like a steam train in the Foxhunters. His confidence is high and he could be the surprise package of the Paul Nicholls five.
Who else is being tipped?
Frankie Dettori, three-times Champion Jockey:
Saphir Du Rheu. He is trained by the Champion trainer Paul Nicholls, in Sam Twiston-Davies he has a good jockey and his owner Andy Stewart is my friend.
John Francombe, seven-times Champion Jockey
Cause Of Causes. He has a lot of class to win a race as demanding as the National.
Phil Taylor, former world darts champion
Vieux Lion Rouge. It's the favourite - what more can I say?
Tanni Grey Thompson, Parlaympic gold medal winner
Highland Lodge. I pick purely on colours - purple is my favourite colour, and we spend time every year in the Highlands. There's nothing more to it than that.
Clare Balding, broadcaster
Cause of Causes. I'm a huge fan. He ran well in the National a couple of years ago, he's a clever jumper and his stamina is proven. At a big price each-way I like Maggio.
Jilly Cooper, writer
Blaklion. Trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies is such a lovely man and his two boys are fantastic riders. Nigel has won the race before and the horse’s jockey, Noel Fehily is so sweet.
Peter Scudamore, eight-times Champion Jockey
One For Arthur (which his partner Lucinda Russell trains). He's very well at home, will stay the trip and has a great chance.
Bob Champion, Grand National-winning jockey
Blaklion. His trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies knows what’s needed to win a Grand National and he will be ridden by Noel Fehily who is a fantastic horseman.
Catherine Ward Thomas, of Ward Thomas the band
Wonderful Charm. We're huge fans of Katie Walsh and think it would be great if she was the first female jockey to win it.