Punters wait on Quel Esprit green light

The Willie Mullins-trained Quel Esprit is one of the classiest entries for the forthcoming John Smith's Grand National at Aintree on April 14, but the participation of the dashing grey remains very much up in the air at present with connections prepared to wait until as late as possible before making a final decision on whether or not he will take his chance in the high profile event, writes Elliot Slater.

The eight-year-old was expected to bid for the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup last week but was an eleventh hour withdrawal after he failed to please his handler in a gallop on the morning of the big event. Mullins felt the horse lacked his usual sparkle and decided it wasn't worth risking the highly progressive French-bred gelding in such a tough contest if he wasn't 100% on the top of his game. Those with a 2012 online Grand National free bet should remember this.

Quel Esprit has been on general offer at just 14/1 to win the blue riband contest, but his late omission from the starting line-up at least means that he will go to Aintree a fresher horse than many others who competed at Cheltenham, both in the Gold Cup and in the staying chases scattered over the four days of the big meeting. This term the son of Saint des Saint has done everything right in winning all three outings, beginning with an odds-on success at Naas in November after which he followed up in comfortable fashion at even more prohibitive odds in Grade 3 company at Thurles in January. He completed his hattrick when putting up his best performance to date in stepping up to Grade 1 company at Leopardstown in February to beat Roberto Goldback by two-lengths in the Irish Hennessey Gold Cup and is currently on offer for the Grand National at odds ranging from 20/1 to a generous looking 50/1.

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