Grand National 2015: Pineau De Re ready for Aintree defence
Grand National-winning trainer Dr Richard Newland says that Pineau De Re is in "great nick" and will return to Aintree in April with a "live chance" of repeating his 2014 triumph.
Newland was last month asked to explain the horse's poor showing in finishing only 11th in a race at Cheltenham.
It was Pineau De Re's first competitive outing since the 25-1 shot's five-length National win.
But his trainer is happy with his chances of emulating the great Red Rum.
No horse has won consecutive Nationals since Red Rum (who also came second in 1975 and 1976 before winning for a record third time in 1977) achieved the feat in 1973 and 1974.
But, although the fences at Aintree are not as formidable as they were 40 years ago, Newland insists is is now tougher to triumph in the race as there are more horses capable of winning.
|Claines - the home of Pineau De Re|
|Dr Richard Newland's yard is at Linacres Farm on the outskirts of Worcester, in the village of Claines.|
|The road sign leading into the village off the A449 was changed earlier this year, to honour Pineau De Re's Grand National glory|
"Red Rum was a real hero of mine, as he was of many other people," the Worcestershire trainer told BBC Midlands Today. "But it was a lot easier in those days, in terms of how competitive it was.
"You now have 40 good horses all running in a handicap. That's why people have struggled to win it again in recent times. Hopefully, in Pineau De Re, we've got one with a live chance."
After seeing his tired horse labour in 66 lengths adrift at Cheltenham on 15 November, Newland now plans to run Pineau De Re over hurdles prior to his next encounter with Aintree's unique fences on 11 April.
"We were reasonably satisfied with how he ran at Cheltenham," added Newland. "We knew he would come on for the run.
"The plan is to keep him over hurdles at Carlisle in a fortnight's time, which we did last year, then get him qualified to run in the final of that race at the Cheltenham Festival in March. We're getting him nicely tuned.
"The weights are due out in February, but I've already been told he'll be 8lbs higher than last year."