Better ground at Aintree just the ticket for Alliance

Shrewd Irish trainer Tony Martin has been kicking himself for running his John Smith's Grand National hope Northern Alliance on testing ground on his last two outings, suggesting that it would have been better to have waited for drying ground than ask his horse to slog through rain-sodden terrain, writes Elliot Slater.

Given all the above however, Martin is very pleased with the condition of his 10-year-old who despite the conditions still shaped with considerable promise when third to the useful In Compliance (also engaged at Aintree) in the Cashel Chase at Thurles last month. Three weeks earlier the Naheez gelding had also run with plenty of credit in chasing home Dooney's Gate in Clonmel's Kilcash Chase. Anyone placing a Grand National online bet should bear this in mind.

Martin, a master at laying horses out for major handicaps, is very keen for the ground to remain 'good' at Aintree, believing that every drop of rain that falls at the Merseyside track will ever so slightly lessen the chance of his horse being able to perform to the best of his ability.

Northern Alliance achieved his biggest payday when landing the Guinness Kerry National Handicap Chase at Listowel 18 months ago when beating decent Church Island by a length. Although he hasn't managed to get his head in front since that Listowel success, Martin's charge has run a series of solid races in the interim, including when a close fifth of 22 to Finger On The Pulse in last season's Galway Plate, and aside of his two solid recent efforts his fourth place in the valuable MCR Hurdle over an inadequate two-miles at Leopardstown in January proves his versatility and honest attitude.

No final jockey booking has yet been announced for Northern Alliance who can still be backed at odds of up to 50/1 in the ante-post market.

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