THEY tell us spring is here but there was a fair bit of winter bite in the air this week and we had some minus temperatures this morning. But it’s Grand National day and we look to the great race to again pull out a feel-good story to banish some of the doom and gloom in news headlines.

It will take something to top last year’s history-making success but even to have a full attendance is something to look forward to after the last two years.

So if we are looking for a winner- where to begin? Perhaps search for the story first?

Snow Leopardess is favourite and would be another one in a million story.

Mares don’t win this often. Grey horses don’t win it often. A grey mare who has a foal, well, who would have come up with that?

But Charlie Longsdon’s mare is worthy of a leading contender. She stays and jumps for fun and has won over the National fences. Whether a classier contender might run her down in the last few furlongs is the thing.

Where it began

It would be something notable for Gordon Elliott to come back first to the winner’s enclosure. It all began here with Silver Birch, it was an even greater achievement to win two with Tiger Roll but it became tough going last year and some may still not share any delight. The Elliott team, minus Tiger Roll, is still very strong, while many may not like a state of play where Gigginstown have five runners and J.P. McManus has six runners. They pay their money…and School Boy Hours is a nice one in at the last minute.

The absence of Tiger Roll might put a little shadow on a Gigginstown success, but Delta Work, Run Wild Fred, Death Duty and Coko Beach all have strong chances. I’d be wary that this is a test that Samco would relish.

Of the other Irish runners, the Mullins team do not seems as strong but should not be underestimated. Burrows Saint didn’t get home last year. Brahma Bull didn’t travel or jump fluently in the Ladbroke Trophy and though he stayed on there, his subsequent form is poor. Class Conti and Agusta Gold are outsiders.

It would be wonderful for some of the smaller Irish yards to land a massive prize like this and Enjoy D’Allen and Freewheelin Dylan have decent claims while the Nolan yard would well rejoice if Discorama made it home in front.

Last year’s Fairyhouse National winner would be emulating Rhyme N Reason, Bobbyjo, Numbersixvalverde and Papillon who all went one better at Aintree.

At the recent Boylesports Irish Grand National launch in the yard, owner Sheila Mangan said she’d be delighted if he got around and even managed to get into a place and that’s the true spirit of the National over the years. Top Ville Ben too has Irish connections and needs a bit of luck after his fall over these fences in December.

Who wins?

So to the business end. Where does the Nash cash go? With winners in the last 10 years ranging from 66/1 to 4/1 and including high class horses like Neptune Collonges and Many Clouds at big odds, you can’t discount sticking the old pin to still pull one from the bunch.

I can’t see the three at the top of the weights being involved though Any Second Now is respected, Run Wild Fred is the first on the list. His consistent form in good handicap chases is a major plus. I also like the yard’s Coko Beach as one of the outsiders.

Longhouse Poet ticks a lot of boxes, the trainer’s done it, the Thyestes is a good race to have on a pre-National CV, and he would be a terrific win for a young rider like Darragh O’Keeffe who went so well for so far on Chris’s Dream last year.

Of the British, Fiddlerontheroof is fancied, has class, but the long run-in isn’t ideal. Santini too has class but might need an even longer run-in!

But of the other British runners, I think De Rasher Counter is too big at 40s if close to his best form and as a Ladbroke Trophy winner, should be worth a bit each-way, I prefer him to stable companion Éclair Surf.

Trainer Emma Lavelle said: “He’s got a touch of class about him and maybe has that little bit of pace that might count for plenty at Aintree,” and you would have to agree.

Dingo Dollar (50s) has form in many of the big staying handicaps and while well exposed at 10 years old, he could plug on when many of the classier ones have run out of steam.

And you can never ignore a horse in the National carrying Trevor Hemmings’ colours so Deise Aba could sneak a place.

In the end, I’d like Snow Leopardess just for the great story of the whole thing.

But it’s Longhouse Poet. He has from in the right race and I’ve happy memories of Slippers Madden cruising into contention, safe for all money, on Numbersixvalverde. De Rasher Counter and Run Wild Fred for the each-way.