PA Photos

Rain could thwart Balthazar King's National tilt

Rain could thwart Balthazar King's National tilt
By Sportsbeat

31/03/2014 at 17:13Updated 31/03/2014 at 17:21

Philip Hobbs is bidding to land the Grand National after 22 attempts but he could be left sweating over the ground until the morning of the race.

Hobbs' chief hope in the 4m3f showpiece is 25/1 shot Balthazar King, winner of the Glenfarclas Handicap Chase at Cheltenham earlier this month.

The ten-year-old is now unbeaten in four starts but with a preference for good ground, rain this week at Aintree could cause Hobbs a headache.

"Balthazar King will run provided the ground doesn't get any softer than good to soft," said the trainer.

"They are talking about showers all week. We will decide something when we declare on Thursday but we may not be able to decide for sure until Saturday morning. We know it's not going to be good but he can cope with good to soft but not soft.

"When Balthazar King won at Cheltenham it was softer than ideal but he wouldn't want to be running in the Grand National on very soft ground."

Another chief contender on Saturday could be the Willie Mullins-trained 20/1 shot Prince De Beauchene.

The 11-year-old has failed to fire this season but a step up to the Grand National's mammoth trip could bring out the best in him.

Mullins will be hoping it is third time lucky for Prince De Beauchene, after the horse was ruled out of the last two instalments when right at the top of the betting.

However, there is less certainty over the Aintree fate of his star-studded crop, which includes Hurricane Fly and Annie Power.

Mullins said: "Prince De Beauchene definitely goes but I won't be making any other decisions about Liverpool until I get home."

And Aiden O'Brien was despondent over the weekend after his hope for the Dubai World Cup fell flat in Meydan on Saturday night.

Last year's Investec Derby Hero finished 13th on the Tapeta surface and O'Brien, whose son Joseph was on board for the world's richest race, said: "We didn't know whether he would handle the surface and it looks like he probably didn't.

"Joseph said he was grand until he came off the bridle and then he was all at sea."