04/06/2017 8:11AM

The Last Samuri tries again in Grand National


The Last Samuri was an 8-1 co-favorite in the 2016 Grand National steeplechase. He took the lead at the 26th of 30 fences before he was caught between the final fence and the finish line in the race over 4 1/4 miles.

The Last Samuri finished second, beaten six lengths by Rule the World.

In the last year, The Last Samuri’s campaign has been geared toward a return appearance in Saturday’s $1.25 million Grand National at Aintree Racecourse, north of Liverpool, England.

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A 9-year-old gelding, The Last Samuri will carry top weight of 164 pounds in a field of 40, a 12-pound increase over his assignment last year. With established credentials, The Last Samuri is rated as one of several contenders in a wide-open running of England’s most popular race.

As of Thursday, The Last Samuri was one of several runners at 12-1 with British bookmakers, slightly higher than Definitly Red at 10-1 and Vieux Lion Rouge at 11-1.

The Last Samuri is winless in three starts during the current steeplechase season, having finished fifth, third and second. At Doncaster on March 4, The Last Samuri was second by 14 lengths to Definitly Red in a handicap chase at 3 1/4 miles.

The performance vaulted Definitly Red to the fore of the Grand National picture. Definitly Red, who will carry 152 pounds, has won the last two races he completed. He unseated jockey Henry Brooke when hampered by a rival in the Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock Park in January.

Vieux Lion Rouge may go favored by post time at 12:15 p.m. Eastern on Saturday. Trained by David Pipe, Vieux Lion Rouge was seventh in the 2016 Grand National, but has won his only two starts this year.

On Feb. 18, Vieux Lion Rouge won the Grand National Trial at 3 9/16 miles at Haydock Park over Blaklion, a 12-1 shot for the Grand National. Blaklion is trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies, who has won the Grand National twice. Blaklion was 20-1 in future-book betting three weeks ago, and has been the subject of support in recent days.