Bristol De Mai heads a maximum field of 40 in the Randox Grand National – but the strongly-fancied Secret Reprieve is only a second reserve at this stage.
Trained by Evan Williams, Secret Reprieve won the Welsh National in December and has been kept fresh in the hope of a crack at the world’s greatest steeplechase on Saturday.
However, it had been touch and go whether he would make the cut or not and as only The Storyteller was not declared at the 48-hour stage, Secret Reprieve’s connections are resigned to their fate.
Should there be any non-runners before 1pm on Friday, the reserve system will come into play – but Williams was philosophical about Secret Reprieve not making the top 40 and is already looking forward to next season with the lightly-raced seven-year-old.
“We’ve had a lot worse news regarding horses, we knew there was a chance that would happen so there’s no point worrying about things we can’t control," the Llancarfan trainer told Sky Sports Racing.
“He’s safe and sound and that’s always the main thing. He’ll go home with Mr and Mrs Rucker (owners) now and we’ll think about next year.
“We took a punt about getting in the National and it’s not going to work out. That’s the way it is. The great thing about missing out on getting into the National is they dropped him 2lb for anywhere we want to go now next year. Every cloud has a silver lining.
“I’m certainly not worried. He’s a young horse, fingers crossed he’ll have his day again in the sun somewhere down the line. He’s gone and won a Welsh National. It was only his sixth start over fences. He’s had a mighty season. He can have a good field of grass now and we can look forward to next year with him.”
Dan Skelton’s Blaklion was the beneficiary of of The Storyteller’s no-show and creeps in as number 40. The first reserve is John McConnell’s Some Neck, with Kauto Riko third reserve and Fagan the fourth and final one.
Ante-post favourite Cloth Cap will aim to give Trever Hemmings a record fourth win in the race following the successes of Hedgehunter, Ballabriggs and Many Clouds – and his trainer Jonjo O’Neill is chasing his second National, having won with Don’t Push It.
After their domination at Cheltenham, the Irish battalion bring a strong team in which Ted Walsh’s Any Second Now is well touted.
Rachael Blackmore enjoyed a dream Festival and aims to top an incredible year on Henry de Bromhead’s Minella Times. The Gold Cup-winning stable is also responsible for Chris’s Dream and Balko Des Flos.
Willie Mullins is without the services of Paul Townend, who suffered an injury at Fairyhouse earlier this week. He is replaced on Burrows Saint by Patrick Mullins.
Danny Mullins rides Acapella Bourgeois, and Brian Hayes is on Class Conti – with Sean O’Keeffe on Cabaret Queen.
Denis O’Regan comes in for the ride on Tony Martin’s Anibale Fly, who has run well in the race twice before and has also twice been placed in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Leading amateur Jamie Codd rides Milan Native, with Sean Flanagan on Tout Est Permis.