Murphy hoping Grand plot will work for Cerium
If plotting a course round Aintree to win a Grand National takes a bit of guile, then so, apparently, does getting a horse to the start.
With the 40 runners, plus four reserves due to be finalised tomorrow morning and 65 still in the mix for the £925,000 purse, trainers with horses near the cut are beginning to fret.
Take Paul Murphy, whose Cerium -- fifth 12 months ago -- is number 42 on the list. Until yesterday the nine-year-old was number 41, but then lost the higher spot to Gordon Elliott's 2007 winner Silver Birch. The two horses have an equal official rating and had to be split by a random draw.
But Murphy also has Mr Pointment with a guaranteed place and will take him out if necessary. "At the moment," said Murphy, "if one horse comes out, then Silver Birch will get in and we'll be next, and if that happens I'll take out Mr Pointment to get Cerium in the race. If nothing comes out, then Mr Pointment will run."
Howard Johnson is in a similar quandary, with Abbeybraney the last one above the cut and Royal Rosa, whom he fancies more, the next on the list behind Silver Birch and Cerium.
"The one I really want to run is Royal Rosa," said Johnson, "and he still needs a few to come out. 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."
With stable jockey Denis O'Regan due to ride one of the leading fancies, Black Apalachi for Dessie Hughes, Johnson has booked Wilson Renwick if one of his charges runs, with Ryan Mania -- yet to ride in the National -- on standby for the other.
The weights for Saturday's contest will remain as set. David Pipe-trained top weight Madison Du Berlais, due to carry 11st 10lb, has been confirmed as a runner rather than aiming for a repeat in tomorrow's Totesport Bowl, in which he would face Gold Cup-winner Imperial Commander.
Odds-on Imperial Commander will face just four rivals in this Grade One contest, the Cheltenham fourth and sixth Carruthers and Calgary Bay, Paul Nicholls' What A Friend (part-owned by Alex Ferguson) and Nacarat.