Irish hope becomes National top weight

Le Coudray, one of 18 Irish-trained horses left in this year's John Smith's Grand National, is the new top weight for Saturday's Aintree spectacular.

Le Coudray, one of 18 Irish-trained horses left in this year's John Smith's Grand National, is the new top weight for Saturday's Aintree spectacular.

Christy Roche's 11-year-old carries 11st 12lb and heads the 85 horses confirmed at yesterday's five-day stage after the expected defections of Grey Abbey and Sir Rembrandt.

First Gold is next in the handicap on 11st 11lb, although Francois Doumen's gelding also has an entry in Thursday's Betfair Bowl over the Mildmay fences.

Martin Pipe has taken out Seebald, Jurancon II and Venn Ottery, but still has a strong hand with four of his entries guaranteed a run - Lord Atterbury, It Takes Time, Iznagoud and Polar Red.

The cut-off point is Jonjo O'Neill's Simply Gifted, so Scottish trainer Lucinda Russell will be hoping at least one of the top 40 comes out at Thursday's 48-hour final declaration to allow her much fancied Strong Resolve to take his chance.

All the leading ante-post fancies have stood their ground, including Hedgehunter, who fell at the last fence last year when lying third and still in contention, and the first three home in that event, Amberleigh House, Clan Royal and Lord Atterbury.

Tony McCoy will partner Clan Royal whose trainer Jonjo O'Neill has booked Brian Harding for one of his other two runners, Simply Gifted.

However, Peter Bowen has yet to find a suitable jockey for his Gold Cup second Take The Stand. "It's a strange situation after his fine run at Cheltenham but none of the top boys are able to ride him," said the trainer.

"I would rather wait as long as possible in the hope that one of them comes available later this week."

The northern challenge is a bit thin on the ground. Ballybough Rasher represents Howard Johnson but the bookmakers rate him one of the outsiders at 66-1, the same price as Ferdy Murphy's Europa.

The only other entry from the region certain of a run is Hunters Tweed, trained by Peter Beaumont.

Both Europa and Hunters Tweed carry the colours of Blackpool businessman Trevor Hemmings who wants to the win the National more than any other race. He also owns Hedgehunter.

Latest odds from William Hill: 8-1 Hedgehunter, 9-1 Amberleigh House, 10-1 Clan Royal, 11-1 Forest Gunner, 12-1 Strong Resolve, 14-1 Joly Bey, 20-1 Colnel Rayburn, Longshanks, Lord Atterbury, Take The Stand, 22-1 Innox, Monty's Pass, 25-1 Bindaree, Nil Desperandum, 28-1 It Takes Time; 33-1 Double Honour, First Gold, Just in Debt, Royal Auclair, and Spot Thedifference, 40-1 bar.

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