Following the defection of First Gold at today’s final declaration stage, the weights for the Martell Cognac Grand National will go up 3lb to leave Le Coudray at the top of the handicap for Saturday’s race.
Le Coudray, one of four runners for legendary Irish gambler J P McManus, will carry 11st 12lb in the Aintree showpiece, just 2lb above last year’s winner Monty’s Pass, who carried 10st 7lb to an impressive victory 12 months ago.
The other McManus runners are leading fancy Clan Royal, Risk Accessor, trained like Le Coudray by Christy Roche, and Spot Thedifference.
Clan Royal’s handler Jonjo O’Neill will also be represented by Joss Naylor, who has not been seen out since finishing second to Strong Flow in the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup at Newbury in November.
Martin Pipe, who won the race in 1994 with Miinnehoma, has six runners - Puntal, Jurancon II, Akarus, Bounce Back, Lord Atterbury and Blowing Wind.
Willie Mullins has been pleased with the preparation of his two challengers, long-time ante-post favourite Hedgehunter and Alexander Banquet.
He said: “They are both OK. Their preparation has been very good and I’m delighted with them.
“We’d like about four inches of rain for them but we’re not going to get it. Both of them have won on goodish ground and I’d be more concerned about a clear passage through the race than ground.”
Hedgehunter made virtually all the running to open his account for the season at Gowran Park in January and he could be ridden prominently again on Saturday.
“I think you need to be up there,” Mullins continued.
“If you take out Alexander Banquet’s last run his form isn’t too bad. It’s just that he got detached in the Gold Cup last time and Ruby (Walsh) wasn’t hard on him when he wasn’t firing on the day.”
Apart from the expected withdrawal of Timbera all the leading fancies stood their ground in the £600,000 (€900,900) contest, which has a safety limit of 40 with four reserves.
As well as First Gold and Timbera, the other withdrawals were Wahiba Sands, Whereareyounow, Hermes III, Royal Predica, Simply Gifted, Iznogoud, Maximize, Ballybrophy, Mr Bossman, Moor Lane, Lord Jack, King On The Run and Kings Mistral.
The bottom horse in the handicap is Luzcadou, while the four reserves are Pipe’s Montreal, Bramblehill Duke, Kildorragh and Scotmail Boy.
Luzcadou’s trainer Ferdy Murphy was delighted to hear that his horse gets into the race.
“That’s fantastic – wonderful news,” Murphy said. “Brian Harding will ride him. He’s won a couple on him.
“We’ll be looking to have a good day out.”
Luzcadou pulled up on his most recent outing at Kelso but has two clear rounds over the Grand National fences to his credit.
“They went too fast for him at Kelso and he just couldn’t go with them,” explained Murphy.
“He wants soft ground over two and a half or good ground over a longer trip and it was good to firm down the back and he just got a bit detached and when that happens he just gets disappointed.
“But he ran well enough in November at Aintree.
“He made a horrendous mistake at the big open ditch and he still ran on and got into contention. He looked like he could win jumping the second last and then the effort he put in took its toll but he still ran a cracking race.”
Luzcadou will not be rushed in the early stages of the race.
Murphy added: “He’ll take his time I think. He’ll hunt around and then on the second circuit get into it.”
The going on the Grand National course is currently described as good and clerk of the course Andrew Tulloch told Sky Sports News: “We are going into the meeting on good ground and we have been watering very intermittently over the last two days.
“We are due to get three or four millimetres overnight tonight.”