THE Irish have made a habit of winning the Grand National in recent years.
In fact, horses from the Emerald Isle have been successful three times since 1999.
The Irish challenge is strong this year too, and among the leading fancies for Aintree this Saturday are the well-weighted Timbera and Hedgehunter.
But what about the prospects from this side of the Irish Sea?
Bear On Board: Since winning at Bangor-on-Dee Races at Christmas, his odds for Liverpool have tumbled. Good jumper and a horse that needs to be at Aintree. Should stay the distance.
Clan Royal: Has won twice over the 'National' fences in the last 12 months and, as Ginger McCain has proved with Amberleigh House, form around Aintree is important.
Jurancon II: The horse chosen by champion jockey Tony McCoy, who has yet to win the Grand National. Won the English Summer National at Uttoxeter and the Aintree trial at Haydock Park a month ago. Likes good ground, and seems likely to get it.
Amberleigh House: Who would bet against Cholmondeley trainer Ginger Mc-Cain's horse being placed again?
Shardam: Comes from the bang-in-form stable of Nigel Twiston-Davies, who trained the 2002 winner Bindaree.
Bindaree: Won the Welsh Grand National at Christmas. Has a liking for softer ground but his trainer still expects a big performance from what he calls 'the forgotten horse of the race'.
Gunner Welburn: Ran well to be fourth last year. In decent form, but is that as good as it gets for him?
Artic Jack: Trained by Sue and Harvey Smith, this is a seriously good horse with great form this season, especially around Haydock. Not kindly treated at the weights and will do well to defy the Handicapper's burden. The last horse to win after being allotted more than 11st was Rhyme 'n' Reason 16 years ago.
My tip - Jurancon II to end Tony McCoy's wait for a Grand National winner.