One horse that didn’t line up in the 2018 Grand National, but could appear in 2019 is the Willie Mullins trained Bellshill.
There is no doubting that Bellshill is a seriously talented horse and one that has the class to run in the Grand National. He is a grade one winner across three disciplines, national hunt flat, hurdles and over the big fences. While he has had some disappointments in his career, when things go right for him and he puts his best foot forward, he has the potential to be one of the best horses in training.
A recent win in the Irish Gold Cup at Punchestown showed he has the ability to mix it with the very best staying chasers. Road To Respect, 12 lengths behind the Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Native River was eight lengths behind Bellshill in the Irish Gold Cup. His third behind Might Bite at Cheltenham in 2017 and his reappearance victory over A Genie In A Bottle in 2018 both show further evidence that over fences he can be a really strong contender.
The biggest question mark hanging over Bellshill is his ability to stay the marathon trip of over four miles at Aintree. This is now even more in question after his run in the Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse. That race was over three miles and five furlongs, a shorter trip than the English Grand National, but one that he clearly struggled with. When clear with two furlongs to go in that race, his tank emptied quickly and the horse has nothing left to give. He eventually faded back into 4th but was subsequently demoted into 5th place.
That race will stick in the memory of punters who may not be willing to give Bellshill another shot at an extreme distance in a race like the Grand National. However, this time next year he will be at the peak of his career, and if there is one year when he could get the distance, 2019 will be it. He will have a lot of weight to carry in the race, but that is because he is a top-class horse. He may or may not go for the race, but is an interesting contender, and would add a touch of class if he did turn up.