Dreaper going for Becher gold with Goonyella
Jim Dreaper is looking forward to seeing Goonyella tackle Aintree's Grand National fences for the second time in Saturday's Becher Chase.
The strapping eight-year-old only made it as far as the first fence in last year's renewal, but proved himself a staying chaser to be reckoned with in the spring by winning the Midlands National at Uttoxeter and finishing second in the Scottish Grand National at Ayr.
Goonyella made a pleasing return to action when third over hurdles at Cork at the start of November. "He's in good form and the plan is for him to run at Aintree," said the Co Dublin-based trainer. "Jonathan (Burke) will come over to ride him and he'll run regardless of what weight he gets."
Goonyella is one of 27 horses to have stood their ground following the confirmation stage and currently sits second in the weights behind the Paul Nicholls-trained Unioniste after Don Poli, Sam Winner and Rocky Creek were all taken out.
Unioniste, an Aintree regular which fell in the National in April, will take his chance, according to owner John Hales who said: "It is not necessarily about winning, we just want him to have a clear round and enjoy himself. Aintree in April is the aim again and I can see him having possibly three runs between now and then."
Nicholls has also entered Mon Parrain, while Goonyella heads the raiding party from this side of the Irish Sea that also includes Irish National winner Thunder And Roses, Mouse Morris' Hennessy Gold Cup third First Lieutenant and the Tony Martin-trained Heathfield.
Other contenders include last season's Grand National runner-up Saint Are and 2014 National winner Pineau De Re.
Rocky Creek could compete over the National fences in the shorter Betfred Grand Sefton Chase on the same afternoon after topping 25 entries at the latest stage. Double Ross, Bennys Mist and Poole Master are also on the list for the home team.
Dromnea, Art Of Logistics, Valseur Lido and First Lieutenant are the four Irish entries, though the latter is likely to head next for the Paddy Power Handicap Chase at Leopardstown's following his fine third in the Hennessy on Saturday.
Rocky Creek is also among the entries for the Betfred Lotto "£100K Cash Giveaway" Chase.
Run on Aintree's Mildmay course, the three-mile-one-furlong affair has also attracted Oliver Sherwood's Grand National hero Many Clouds, as well as the Willie Mullins-trained RSA Chase winner and leading Gold Cup candidate Don Poli. Nicholls has also entered Southfield Theatre, while Neil Mulholland has given the option to The Druids Nephew after he bypassed the Hennessy due to unsuitable ground.
Dynaste, Mala Beach, Menorah and Triolo D'Alene, the 2013 Hennessy winner which has not been seen since January, also feature.