David Pipe could have up to three runners in this year's Grand National as he attempts to follow up last year's success with Comply Or Die. The current title holder will aim to shrug off his two disappointing runs of this season and become the first since Red Rum in 1974 to win consecutive renewals at Aintree. He could yet be joined by stablemates Puntal and Madison Du Berlais.
Comply Or Die has disappointed Pipe in his two outings this term at Cheltenham but the Pond House trainer is hoping the fitting of blinkers will fire the 10-year-old back to life at Aintree on 4 April.
"He will have the blinkers back on for the National, or on his run before," said Pipe. "He may be taking the mickey out of us at the moment and saving it all for the National. He may go to the Haydock Park Gold Cup en route to Aintree and I'd imagine he'll have one run before the National.
"A lot will depend on whether Denman runs in the National but he is bound to have a lot of weight in the race. Comply Or Die is the same at home as he was last year and is full of beans. I was disappointed with him at Cheltenham but to get him to line up for a second National will be great, and what happens after that is out of our hands."
Totesport quote Comply Or Die at 16-1 for the John Smith-sponsored National, while Hennessy winner Madison Du Berlais is a general 25-1 chance, despite falling in the race last April.
"He came down last year and had been running well until that stage," said Pipe. "He is still improving and will go for a long-distance chase next, and could possibly run in the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham later this month. He will be entered for the National and we'll have to see if Denman [the current top weight] takes part before deciding if he runs. The Totesport Bowl would be another option for him at Aintree."
Old-timer Puntal could also take his chance for Pipe and the 13-year-old is likely to warm up for the big fences in the BGC Cross-County Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. Pipe added: "He has been round there three times and completed twice so he has a good track record, and is still showing plenty of zest at home. His owners are keen to run him so he will be entered again. He will tell us when he is ready to retire but he is still pulling the arms off his lad up the gallops."
Pipe insists he would not be too concerned if last year's Champion Hurdle runner-up Osana were to head to Cheltenham without a prep run. The seven-year-old finished a length adrift of Katchit at the Festival and has not been seen since being beaten 10 lengths by Al Eile at Aintree last April.
Pipe has mooted the possibility of heading straight for the Champion Hurdle with Osana, although an outing at Wincanton or Sandown remains a possibility. "He was a bit late coming back in as he took a while to come to himself, but we are getting there now," said Pipe. "We are very much looking forward to getting him back to Cheltenham as he is a year older and a year stronger."
Pipe reached 50 winners for the jumps season thanks to a 21-1 double from his only two runners at Folkestone yesterday.