Forty horses line up for the £1 million Randox-sponsored showpiece, primed to tackle 30 fences, many of which have household names such as Becher's Brook, The Chair, Valentine's Brook and the Canal Turn.
Those fences are not as fearsome as they once were. Quite rightly, animal welfare takes first priority now. But the historic race, which dates back to 1839, is still a thrilling spectacle.
Last year, it was forced behind closed doors by the pandemic, having been cancelled altogether in 2020. But it's back in all its glory on Saturday (5.15 pm) and will be enjoyed by 70,000 on course and a global TV audience of up to 600 million people. You can watch it live on ITV.
It remains the one day of the year when most of us have a flutter, whether it be a couple of quid each/way or a go on the sweep at work or our local pub. Bookies expect about £200 million to be bet on the great race.
This year's running looks as competitive as ever, even though it lacks the presence of two-times winner TIGER ROLL, who was retired after last month's Cheltenham Festival.
Last year's race made history when Rachael Blackmore became the first female rider to triumph aboard MINELLA TIMES. They are back for more, but the horse has been burdened by top weight and has been in poor form.
Amazingly, ten of the first 11 places 12 months ago were filled by horses trained in Ireland. Once again, Irish handlers such as Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott are well represented.
So in trying to find the winner, do you study the form or do you stick a pin in? To help you decide, our guide pinpoints 12 horses likely to have a say in the outcome. A couple of lively outsiders, Mount Ida and Fortescue, just failed to make the cut!
Please note: the numbers do NOT relate to their order on the racecard. And the prices quoted were correct at the time of going to press.
MY VERDICT - 1 Escaria Ten, 2 Any Second Now, 3 Fiddlerontheroof, 4 De Rasher Counter, 5 Delta Work
1. Escaria Ten (14/1)
It's very rare for a horse with as little experience over fences (only seven starts) as Gordon Elliott's French-bred 8yo (pictured left) to win the National. But this is a classy stayer who has been laid out for the race since a fine effort at last season's Cheltenham Festival. After an eyecatching seasonal re-appearance, he finished just a whisker behind the likely race favourite Any Second Now last time. Stamina guaranteed and also an impeccable jumper.
Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images
2. Any Second Now (10/1)
Trained by Ted Walsh, father of brilliant former jockey Ruby, who combined to guide Papillon to National glory in 2000. This 10yo, owned by two-times winner JP McManus, was a leading fancy for the 2020 race that was a victim of the Covid-19 pandemic and would have won last year but for making a juddering blunder and then being being badly hampered by a faller. He is pictured (right) running on into third spot. Could it be third time lucky for him this year?
Photo: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images
3. Fiddlerontheroof (16/1)
High-class, consistent 8yo who, in my view, is comfortably the pick of the UK-trained contingent in the race. Admirably, Colin Tizzard's charge has failed to make the frame only once in 18 starts and has regularly kept company in Grade One or Grade Two contests. Endured a worryingly hard prep race six weeks ago and has never won over 3m or further, but he's tough and has shown enough to suggest he'll stay Aintree's marathon trip.
Photo: David Davies/Getty Images
4. De Rasher Counter (40/1)
Owned by the Makin' Bacon Partnership, Emma Lavelle's 10yo is the most weirdly named runner this year. But if you're looking for a big-priced outsider to spring a surprise, he could be the answer. He's been allotted a handicap rating identical to that off which he won the Ladbrokes Trophy (former Hennessy Gold Cup) three seasons ago and although he's been plagued by injury and absence ever since, he shaped very nicely behind quality opposition on his seasonal comeback run two months ago.
Photo: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images