WELSH training wizard Peter Bowen could taste Grand National glory for the first time if, as expected, McKelvey is involved in the climax of Aintree's world-famous steeplechase.

When it comes to selecting a National fancy, three key factors immediately spring to mind, all of which, generally speaking, play a major role in the outcome of the race.

Firstly, the horse must be able to keep plugging away over the marathon trip. No-one's suggesting the field will be flying at the finish, but energy conservation for the stamina-sapping closing stages is prerequisite number one.

Secondly, a sound jumping technique is essential, preferably acquired by paying a previous visit to the course and witnessing first-hand the best way to get from one side to the other of the unique fences.

The third and equally vital component is good old-fashioned Lady Luck, who, if she's generous, ensures your pick deftly sidesteps the inevitable carnage as horses come to grief at awesome obstacles like Bechers Brook and The Chair.

Luck is in the lap of the gods, however McKelvey meets criteria one and two, having completed the course when sixth in the Becher Chase, plus proved his stamina by winning last year's English Summer National at Uttoxeter.

"McKelvey has a big chance, he was sixth in the Becher when not fully tuned up and was then put away for the winter. He's had one run since to put him spot-on," said Bowen, who has prepared the gelding specifically for the big race.

Next on my shortlist is Howard Johnson's Bewleys Berry, based right here in the North-East at White Lea Farm, Crook.

Purchased for Howard's main patrons, Andrea and Graham Wylie, Bewleys Berry has been the subject of quiet yet sustained ante-post support over the past couple of months.

It's not hard to understand why folk are prepared to invest on the chestnut, who did even better than McKelvey in the 2006 Becher Chase by nabbing the runners-up spot behind Eurotrek.

"You'd like to think we have a National horse on our hands," said Wylie after that heroic effort by his challenger, a lightly-raced economical jumper with not too many miles on the clock.

It's been well over a century since the last French-trained raider, Cortolvin, won the Aintree showpiece in 1867, however I trust I'm not the bearer of a poisoned chalice by siding with Kelami. Kelami lined up in 2004, only to be brought down at the first in an all-to-familiar collision caused by jockeys charging the initial obstacle at speed enough to put the fear of the almighty up most mortals.

Hopefully there'll be a more pedestrian approach to the start of the proceedings this afternoon and seeing as he's a bone-fide Cheltenham Festival winner, he possesses the touch of class absent from many of the runners.

Kelami's suave and sophisticated French trainer, Francois Doumen, began life in much humbler surroundings, born by the side of the road in war-torn France on June 11, 1940.

Francois, who rode more than 100 winners as an amateur between 1956 and 1970, took out his licence in 1977 and it wasn't long before he staged a series of daring smash-and-grab cross-Channel sorties.

Nupsala's shock 25-1 defeat of the great Desert Orchid in the 1987 King George at Kempton served notice of his intentions, but it was The Fellow's 1994 Cheltenham Gold Cup triumph which was to be his crowning glory.

Nine-year-olds boast the best recent record in the National, winning eight of the past 28 runnings, and, having alluded to an element of luck, Kelami's colours have previously been carried to victory by the John Halewood-owned Amberleigh House.

My fourth and final selection is Joes Edge, trained by Ferdy Murphy and napped by this column at money-spinning odds of 25-1 when he won the 2005 Scottish National under a brave ride by Keith Mercer.

Mercer has since parted company with Murphy, who subsequently snapped up Graham Lee to partner the bulk of the West Witton handler's top horses, which not unnaturally includes Joes Edge.

Lee, a local lad from Ingleby Barwick, holds the advantage of having already won on Amberleigh House, therefore doesn't need a map and compass to be on the money at the business end of affairs.

Additionally, Lee will be heartened by the fact Joes Edge successfully negotiated all 30 fences in last year's race to occupy a highly-creditable seventh place behind Numbersixvalverde..

"There's no substitute for course form and we know he jumped round last year," said in-form Murphy, who sent out Nine de Sivola to finish second in Monday's Irish National.