Strong Irish representation among 122 National contenders

ANTE-POST favourite Clan Royal and Racing Post Chase hero Innox are among 122 contenders remaining after the first forfeit stage for the John Smith’s Grand National.

The two leading fancies - the principal horses from a powerful 11-strong JP McManus contingent - go forward for the £700,000 race at Aintree on April 8, where a maximum field of 40 will face the starter.

A total of 74 are currently in the handicap, including a strong representation from Ireland.

Among them are last year’s winner Hedgehunter, 2005 Betfred Gold Cup hero Jack High, recent Naas winner Sir Oj, last season’s Irish National hero Numbersixvalverde and Becher Chase winner Garvivonnian, who finished second in the Grade Two Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse on Saturday.

“He ran very well at the weekend when he was meeting the winner Forget The Past all wrong at the weights,” said Garvivonnian’s trainer Edward Mitchell.

“It’s straight to Aintree now and he’ll be happy going there fresh so hopefully we can keep him healthy until then.

“We would have been second reserve last year - when we had 10st 1lb - but didn’t take it and that’s why we went for the Becher Chase this time, not only to give him experience over the fences but also so that he would go up in the handicap a little as well.

“Things have worked out so far and he’s got 10st 6lb, which seems an ideal weight.

“I hope Garrett Cotter will be on board, although he has partnered Jack High as well.

“The ground shouldn’t be a worry as he’d go on good or softer.”

Martin Pipe still has 20 entries in the marathon event, while Paul Nicholls has nine engaged, including last season’s runner-up Royal Auclair and Silver Birch, who has failed to sparkle on his last two outings.

Aintree legend Ginger McCain will bow out on a high if 2004 winner Amberleigh House or Ebony Light provide him with a fifth Grand National success.

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