Rosa Johnson's preferred National choice

HOWARD Johnson remains in a quandary over his likely running plans in the John Smith's Grand National at Aintree on Saturday.

Although Belon Gale is virtually certain to miss the cut, the Durham handler could still be doubly represented by Abbeybraney and Royal Rosa.

Abbeybraney is guaranteed a run having sneaked in at No 40 following the confirmation stage, but Royal Rosa, who Johnson has described as his main hope, still needs three to come out. "The one I really want to run is Royal Rosa and he still needs a few to come out," said Johnson.

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"We'll have to play it by ear but if it looks as though Royal Rosa is just going to miss the cut by one, I'll have to take Abbeybraney out.

"Abbeybraney pulled his stifle out coming down the hill at Cheltenham last time, but he's fine now. Both the horses are really well. I took them down to the sea at Redcar the other day and they loved it. If they both get in on Saturday they'll both run but, if they don't, the other would probably go for the Scottish National along with Killyglen."

With stable jockey Denis O'Regan booked to ride leading fancy Black Apalachi for Dessie Hughes, Johnson has had to look elsewhere to sort out his riding arrangements.

"Denis rides Black Apalachi on Saturday and couldn't do the weight on either of my two anyway," Johnson continued. "Wilson Renwick will ride one of them and if both of mine get in then I'll give Ryan Mania his first ride in the National, as he's a good kid."

The weights for Saturday's contest will remain the same after connections of Madison Du Berlais confirmed he will take his chance under the welter burden of 11st 10lb.

Chester Barnes, assistant to trainer David Pipe, said: "It has been decided that Madison Du Berlais will head for a crack at the John Smith's Grand National. Tom Scudamore will partner our nine-year-old in the showpiece after schooling him over our National fences at home; he jumped very well and everyone could not be more pleased with his preparation."

David Casey is set to ride the Willie Mullins-trained Snowy Morning – despite taking a bad fall at Fairyhouse on Monday.

The Irish rider was feared to have suffered a fractured pelvis, but subsequent X-rays revealed he has not sustained a break and he is expected to be back in the saddle at Fairyhouse today.

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Casey said: "I'm a little bit sore, but I'm a great deal better than I was on Monday, which is fantastic. It's looking pretty good at the moment and I'd be very confident for the weekend."