The first Grand National 2016 scratching stage took place yesterday. It was revealed today that 13 potential runners have been withdrawn, leaving 113 still in the mix for the £1m race which takes place at Aintree Racecourse on Saturday, April 9th 2016.
Of those that were scratched, Houblon Des Obeaux was the highest rated. Under the charge of Grand National winning trainer Venetia Williams, he had been given a hefty 11-05 based on an official rating of 160. That may not have sat particularly well with connections based on his relatively poor year of results that was only halted by a win in the Denman Chase at Newbury last month.
Also taken out of contention was Wounded Warrior, trained by Noel Meade. At just seven years of age the Grand National was always going to be a big ask of such a young horse so perhaps connections have decided to wait an another year before tackling the notoriously difficult fences.
Historically those up to number 73, when the weights are revealed, have a decent chance of making the starting line-up of 40 runners so it comes as no surprise that nine of the 13 taken out were all very far down the list with almost no chance of making the cut.
Along with Houblon Des Obeaux and Wounded Warrior, the list also included Thunder And Roses (49), Open Hearted (62), Ziga Boy (83), Night In Milan (88), Seabass (92), Paint the Clouds (96), Dromnea (106), Ned Stark (112), Rigadin De Beauchene (114), Dark Lover (119) and Seebright (120).
What all of that essentially means is that the door has opened for Kruzhlinin and Rule The World who will now officially make the line-up if they stay the course.
With Cheltenham only days away, it's reasonable to assume that many of the horses that have been given entries to both festivals will be playing the ‘wait and see' game before committing to the Grand National.
The Willie Mullins trained Don Poli holds a Gold Cup entry for which he is as short as 9/2 behind the race favourite Don Cossack. As Mullins has surprisingly never won the Gold Cup he is going at it with all guns blazing this year. Of the 21 potential Gold Cup runners, he trains eight of them.
Other dual Gold Cup and Grand National entrants include Gilgamboa from Enda Bolger, O'Faolains Boy from Rebecca Curtis, Carlingford Lough from John Kiely, Boston Bob, Ballycasey, Valseur Lido, Sir Des Champs and On His Own all from Willie Mullins, Many Clouds from Oliver Sherwood, Morning Assembly from PA Fahy and Holywell from Jonjo O'Neill.
With trainer Paul Nicholls reconsidering Silviniaco Conti's plans for the season, he has confirmed that he will bypass Cheltenham and go for the Grand National over the Aintree Bowl Chase.
His emphatic victory in the Ascot Chase last month proved he was back to his winning ways and now Nicholls wants him to have a crack at the National fences writing on his website: “He will not go to Cheltenham and is much more likely to run in the Crabbie's Grand National at Aintree rather than bid for a third win in the Bowl there.
“I am very tempted by the National and so is his jockey Noel Fehily.
“Conti is going to be well-in in the race now and when he is right, which he is now, he is a very good horse.”
Kim Bailey's The Last Samuri also held an entry for the Cheltenham Handicap Chase but Bailey has decided to give that a miss and instead will go to Doncaster this weekend before heading on to Aintree.
Bailey said: “Everything has been perfect with him since his win at Kempton and he wants good ground, which it hopefully should be at Doncaster.
“He is entered at the Cheltenham Festival but won’t be heading there. We only put him in at Cheltenham in case there were lots of abandonments and we ran out of options.
“The plan is to go to Doncaster and then straight to Aintree, all being well.
“Saturday’s race looks like it should be a good trial for the Crabbie’s Grand National.”
The next stage for withdrawals is March 22nd with the five-day confirmation stage on April 4th before final declarations at 10am on April 7th.
Picture by: Clint Hughes / PA Wire/Press Association Images