Connections of the John Kiely-trained Irish Hennessy winner were quick to rule out a trip to Liverpool following his unplaced run in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, but fellow top-weight Lord Windermere stands his ground at the head of the field.
Jim Culloty’s charge was pulled up in his defence of the Gold Cup but could still join stablemate Spring Heeled in the 11 April contest. Should Lord Windermere win, he would be only the third horse to land both races following Golden Miller and L’Escargot.
Many Clouds, another Gold Cup also-ran, remains in the reckoning for Oliver Sherwood while the Paul Nicholls-trained trio of Sam Winner, Unioniste and Newbury winner Rebel Rebellion are all towards the top of the handicaps. The champion trainer, who won the race with Neptune Collonges in 2012, is likely to run six horses in this season’s renewal, with Rocky Creek leading a squad that also includes Mon Parrain and possibly Benvolio.
Ante-post favourite Shutthefrontdoor – the expected mount of Tony McCoy – and his Jonjo O’Neill stablemate Merry King are firmly in contention, but Willie Mullins’ Prince De Beauchene was a notable absentee along with Tony Martin’s Living Next Door.
The Druids Nephew, Cause Of Causes, Al Co, Teaforthree and Monbeg Dude also stand their ground with Alvarado the last to make the 40-strong field as it stands. Rolling Aces, Alderwood, Boston Bob, Shotgun Paddy, Theatrical Star, Roi Du Mee, Katenko, Make A Track, Cedre Bleu and Buddy Bolero were the other withdrawals.
Meanwhile, Barry Geraghty’s hopes of making the Punchestown Festival rest on a meeting with his surgeon in four weeks’ time. Geraghty suffered a hairline fracture of his left shin bone in a fall at Downpatrick on Sunday. As a result he will miss the Grand National for the first time since 2000 and will also be absent from the Irish equivalent at Fairyhouse.
With Punchestown not starting until 28 April, Geraghty is “hopeful” he’ll be back in time for the finale to the Irish season.