Many Clouds heads 87 still left in Aintree Grand National

Last year’s winner Many Clouds heads a whopping 87 horses still left in the Crabbie’s Grand National at Aintree on Saturday at the five-day confirmation stage.

Connections of the Oliver Sherwood-trained nine-year-old have geared his campaign around a return trip to Liverpool and he is reported to be in tip-top shape to repeat his 2015 triumph.

Should he be successful, he will become the first horse since the great Red Rum to record back-to-back victories in the race.

Many Clouds showed he is in no mood to give up his crown without a fight by landing an impressive victory at Kelso four weeks ago. He has to carry top weight, but is by no means overburdened.

A maximum field of 40 is allowed and the last horse currently guaranteed a run is The Romford Pele, trained by Rebecca Curtis. The Tom George-trained Saint Are, runner-up 12 months ago, has moved into those coveted places.

There were a total of nine withdrawals - Carlingford Lough, Third Intention, Roi Du Mee, Turban, Living Next Door, Spring Heeled, Katkeau, Golden Chieftain and Godsmejudge.

Class is of the essence in this year’s renewal, with Silviniaco Conti attempting to transfer his excellent form over regulation fences to the unique obstacles of the Grand National.

Nicholls also has Wonderful Charm, Rocky Creek, Unioniste, Just A Par and Black Thunder as he seeks to hold on to the champion trainers’ crown.

His other entry Benvolio is highly unlikely to make the top 40.

One of the best-backed horses in recent weeks has been The Last Samuri, trained by Kim Bailey who won the great race with Mr Frisk 26 years ago.

The National is a glaring omission from Nicky Henderson’s big-race victories and the Seven Barrows trainer hopes to put that right with one of his two possibles - Triolo D’Alene and Hadrian’s Approach.

Several old favourites and horses with proven National form are not yet in the top 40.

They include the 2014 winner Pineau De Re and Alvarado, who has finished fourth for the last two years.

Kerry Lee has had a fantastic first season as a trainer since taking over from her father Richard.

However, her dreams of trying to cap it off by winning the National hangs in the balance as both Bishops Road, her Betfred Grand National Trial scorer, and Welsh National hero Mountainous need horses to come out.

Willie Mullins is going all out to wrest the UK trainers’ title and pins his hopes of winning the National a second time after Hedgehunter in 2005 with On His Own, Sir Des Champs, Boston Bob and Ballycasey,

Ireland are also well represented with the likes of Gilgamboa, Morning Assembly, Goonyella, Ucello Conti and Gallant Oscar.

Others in the mix from the UK shores include The Druids Nephew, Shutthefrontdoor, Holywell, Kruzhlinin, Ballynagour, Buywise and O’Faolains Boy.

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