Nicholls Taranis Out Of National

With the passing of the March 3 deadline some 14 horses from the original 112 declared at the first stage for the John Smith's Grand National have been withdrawn from the race, the most significant being the highly talented Taranis, writes Elliot Slater.

Quoted by some 2010 Aintree Grand National Free Bets experts as short as 33/1 for the four-and-a-half mile marathon, Paul Nicholls' nine-year-old has been plagued by injury since pulling up in the 2007 King George VI Chase, the second of four successive victories in the Christmas showpiece for his lauded stable companion Kauto Star.

The French bred gelding reportedly broke down badly and it was touch and go for some time as to whether or not he would ever be seen on a racecourse again. When he did reappear it was after an absence of more than two years and his subsequent rout of quality rivals including Carruthers in Cheltenham's Argento Chase proved that the engine was as good, if not better than ever.

The prospect of seeing Taranis tackle the Aintree fences come Grand National start time and being added to an already powerful Nicholls raiding party for the race that includes leading market fancies Tricky Trickster and Big Fella Thanks, raised the possibility of a first National success for his handler, who has won virtually everything else racing has to offer.

Having pulled out lame a few days ago though, x-rays showed that Taranis has sustained a fracture of a bone close to his hip joint and therefore will once again be on the easy list for some time. Connections suggested that they are optimistic about the prospects of Taranis returning next season, but as time ticks by it is clearly very disappointing that this very talented chaser is being sidelined for so long at the peak of his powers.