Alvarado aiming for Aintree

Views from connections ahead of the bet365 Edinburgh National Handicap Chase and feature action at Musselburgh on Saturday.

Alvarado: Needs to go up in the weights to get in the National

Trainer Fergal O'Brien has challenged Alvarado to earn himself a third shot at Grand National glory with a positive showing at Musselburgh on Saturday.

The 12-year-old finished fourth in consecutive runnings of the world's most famous steeplechase at Aintree in 2014 and 2015, but after missing the cut for last year's renewal, he rounded off his campaign by filling the runner-up spot in the Scottish equivalent at Ayr.

O'Brien is keen to see his veteran return to Merseyside in April, but with his current rating of 135 unlikely to be enough to earn him a starting berth, he needs to impress the handicapper in the inaugural running of the bet365 Edinburgh National this weekend.

"We got him back in early this season and he ran a blinder in the three-mile-three-furlong handicap at the Paddy Power meeting at Cheltenham to finish sixth," said O'Brien.

"We then went to the Becher Chase where he was third or fourth favourite and he went and fell, which was very disappointing.

"He got a very bad kick near the top of his head, so he has been off since then really, but he has come back and has been working well."

Paddy Brennan gets the leg up on Alvarado for the first time, with regular rider Paul Moloney sidelined by injury.

"It's a bit sad for Paul as he gets on very well with the horse, but Paddy Brennan is looking forward to riding him and he has given up some rides at Sandown to go and ride him, which is great for us," the trainer added.

"We are really looking forward to running him as he will love the ground. Whether the track will be a bit sharp, I don't know, but we can't do any more at home and we need to get him back on the track.

"If he runs well on Saturday, it gives him a better chance of getting in the Grand National. If he doesn't get into the National, hopefully he will go one better in the Scottish National.

"He has been such a great horse for the yard and we just want to see him have a great time.

"If he does that, he won't be far away on Saturday."

Alvarado features in a 13-strong field set to go to post for the £40,000 contest with top-weight Just A Par, Gonalston Cloud and the consistent Azure Fly others to consider in an open heat.

The bet365 Scottish Triumph Hurdle Trial Juvenile Hurdle promises to be an informative affair, with six talented juveniles declared.

Alan King's Fidux goes in search of the hat-trick following wins at Catterick and Kempton, while the Charlie Longsdon-trained Forth Bridge bids for a second victory over the course and distance in the colours of the Queen.

Project Bluebook has impressed twice at the Scottish venue and makes his first appearance in the colours of JP McManus.

Trainer John Quinn said: "We were very pleased with his performance the other week. He travelled well off a good gallop and came through nicely at the end.

"He jumps well and seems to be heading the right way."

Classy Flat performer Soldier In Action is thrown in at the deep end on his hurdling debut and Nachi Falls and Warp Factor complete the line-up.

The most valuable race of the afternoon is the £50,000 bet365 Scottish County Hurdle.

Dan Skelton's Optimus Prime heads the weights after filling the runner-up spot on his British debut at Huntingdon, while Cheltenham Festival winner Diego Du Charmil looks to bounce back to form for champion trainer Paul Nicholls.

Brian Ellison, who has his string in fantastic form, saddles Dominada, who has won three of his last four starts and bolted up at this venue on New Year's Day.

Ellison said: "He's improved over 25lb this season and he's flying at home.

"He's gone up a lot in the weights, but he's in very good form and hopefully he'll run a big race.

"He won over two-mile-three here last time, so he stays well.

"We'll probably enter him for the County Hurdle and the Martin Pipe (Conditional Jockeys' Hurdle) at Cheltenham."

Read More at Sporting Life

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