JOCKEY Henry Brooke has Aintree on his mind and is positive Highland Lodge can be a real Grand National contender.

James Moffatt's Cartmel-trained 11-year-old is lined up for his first shot at the big race In Liverpool – having missed out on the handicap by the narrowest of margins last year.

Winner of the Becher Chase over the National fences in 2015, and pipped at the post to finish in an agonising second place in the 2016 renewal, Highland Lodge has proven his liking for the course.

Brooke has been in the saddle on both occasions – the most recent less than two months after coming out of an induced coma following a fall at Hexham in which he broke his collarbone and punctured a lung – and is keeping his fingers crossed he makes the final field of 40 this time around.

The weights were due to be announced at a special reception at the Victoria and Albert Musuem, in London, on Tuesday, with Brooke and Moffatt being virtually guaranteed a ride as he was 42nd in the handicap – with the top 40 making it after withdrawals, of which top weight Outlander is already one – allowing him a shot at success in steeple-chasing's crown jewel.

“It's the only place he'll go! He won't try anywhere else!” Brooke laughed of a horse who was entered into the Scottish National at Ayr last year after missing out at Aintree, and was pulled up three from home when out of touch.

“He just lights up round there. I'm just hoping he gets in now, and then we will see what the future holds, but I am looking forward to getting back on him.

“He can jump round those fences, he just loves it. He gives you a good feel, and it just feels like he always leaves plenty for himself, so I wouldn't worry about the trip.”

Brooke does not see defeat to Vieux Lion Rouge, under Tom Scudamore, in December's Becher Chase as being a negative for his chances on Highland Lodge in the National.

The defending champion was passed on the rail inside the final furlong on that afternoon, with a final late push getting him back to within a short head of a historic triumph.

Brooke knows his mount was idling, but sees no issue with the run, and hopes he can learn from it as a jockey without mulling it over too much.

“He was idling up the run-in in the Becher and we could probably have done with another couple of weeks riding beforehand,” said the Yorkshire-based rider. “But it was good to be back on him, and I'm looking forward to being back on board again.

“He was just messing around and waiting for them. If things had been different, he would have won. If I had stuck to the elbow, Tom wouldn't have win, because he would have had to come round me – but it's one of those things. It's done, I've watched it a few times, but you can't dwell on stuff like that.

“The horse has improved again since last year, and it's just one more race now.”

That race is the Grand National, a race Brooke rode in on 100/1 shot Aachen for Venetia Williams last year when Highland Lodge failed to make the field, having ridden Across The Bay for the three years beforehand.

He knows the National is a different animal to the Becher Chase, but feels Highland Lodge can master it as well as he has the shorter event.

“They mostly go a bit faster in the National than they do in the Becher over the first few – they seem to get racing and jump the first four or five before they steady up and everyone accepts their position,” Brooke said.

“It's the only race where there will be 40 runners lined up across the track ready to go down to the first. Those first few jumps are vital if you want to be in a forward position, and if he has the pace to be fourth in a Hennessy (at Newbury in 2013) on good-ish ground, I don't see why he can't be up there.”

Moffatt is certainly backing Brooke to impress in the saddle, with no intentions of letting anyone else ride his mount come the big day.

“It's Henry's ride and that's it,” said the Pit Farm Stables handler, whose horse has attracted praise from the likes of Ruby Walsh, who won the National on board Hedgehunter in 2005 and Papillon in 2000. “ The pair of them go hand in glove, they go very well together.

“He needs a positive ride and Henry doesn't know how to ride any other way. That's the way he is.”