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Attrition exit weighs heavy

An Irish trainer winner of April's Aintree Grand National is a 5/2 shot with Boylesports, however the winner will not be 2006 Gold Cup hero War Of Attrition as a disappointed Mouse Morris yesterday ruled out his stable star from the Liverpool showpiece having been allocated too much weight.

The 11-year-old has been rejuvenated in his last two starts over hurdles winning both Grade Two contests, and in what is his final season, he was due to have his final racecourse start at Aintree, but having been given 11st 1lb by British handicapper Phil Smith Morris has revealed that War Of Attrition will be a non-runner.

War Of Attrition will now be kept over hurdles and be aimed at the World Hurdle back at Cheltenham next month but Morris fails to understand how the horse received such weight for Aintree, describing how the allocation has left him unwanted.

"I think with that weight they are basically saying they don't want us to run. We've decided we're not going to go as we won't be going where we're not wanted and I don't know how they can justify that weight," said the Tipperary-based trainer.

"If Albertas Run is rated 164 (top weight) and we are getting 9lbs, that means he's rating us 155. I entered our horse in a handicap chase at Sandown the other week and they rated him 149, so I don't know how they've come up with 11st 1lb to be honest."



Focus

Morris will now focus his attention on aiming War Of Attrition at a tilt on the World Hurdle at Cheltenham where the Paul Nicholls-trained Big Bucks is a short priced favourite, while his final run could now come at Punchestown instead.

"The plan now would be to go straight to the World Hurdle and he'll then probably have his last run at the Punchestown Festival in the Guinness Gold Cup or the big staying hurdle race."

Notre Pere joins Albertas Run and Madison Du Berlais as top weight and trainer Jim Dreaper is not overly concerned that his former Welsh National and Punchestown Gold Cup winner has been handed the burden of 11st 10lbs.

"It doesn't matter what we think about it, that's the weight they are going to carry. That's more or less what we expected and we'll put up with that," said Dreaper.

Dreaper admitted that Aintree is not his most certain target and is one of a few options.

"If it's heavy ground he might still line-up in the Gold Cup -- if it's good ground he won't. As far as the National is concerned the ground doesn't matter as much, running over four and a half miles on heavy ground isn't fair on any horse.

"He appears to be in good form and he may go to Fairyhouse for the Bobbjo Chase on Saturday."

Jimmy Mangan won the race in 2003 with the Barry Geraghty-ridden Monty's Pass, and found another live contender in Whinstone Boy who won last month's Thyestes Chase at Gowran Park.

Whinstone Boy has been given 10st l4lbs, five pounds less than stable companion Conna Castle.

"Conna Castle beat Big Zeb in the Powers Gold Cup and he's been high in the weights ever since," Mangan admitted.

"He'll be having a run at Thurles next week and I'd be looking for a big run to prove that he deserves to take his chance in the National. Whinstone Boy should get in off that weight. He's been a great servant and is in terrific form."

Mangan continued: "You won't see him in the near future but he might have one more run possibly over hurdles before the National." Galway Plate winner Ballyholland is another who has been a recent winner over hurdles and while trainer Colin McBratney admitted to having more weight than expected, he is happy that the horse is guaranteed a run in the race.

"I thought he'd be off around 10st 6lbs or 10st 7lbs but at least we're sure of getting in the race," said McBratney.

"He's come out of his last race in Naas well and he runs again there in a chase on March 7.

"Fingers crossed we'll get him there in one piece. That will be his last run, it's five weeks before the National, and Andrew McNamara has committed himself to riding him at Aintree.

"You never know if they will take to the fences until the day, but he's a very brave horse and I just hope the ground comes a bit drier for him."



Chances

Dessie Hughes has two live chances in the race. Siegemaster (11st 3lbs) is an unlikely runner but Black Apalachi and Vic Venturi are both winners over the course and both have been given 11st 6lbs -- and Hughes wasn't surprised by British handicapper Phil Smith's assessment.

"The weight they have got seems fair enough," said Hughes. "They have both gone around the track and won a Becher Chase so I am happy enough. They are both hopefully going to run in the Bobbyjo Chase this weekend so we will find out who is the best then.

"When they get to Aintree it will be a different game so it is hard to know. The race will come a year too early for Siegemaster and I feel he needs a break so he will have a rest after running last weekend."

Gordon Elliott knows what it takes to win the race after Silver Birch put a then fledgling trainer on the racing map, winning the race in 2007. But with Silver Birch set to struggle to make the cut for this year's renewal, Elliott also has Backstage engaged and he was handed 11st for his first tilt at the race.

"It is a pity that it looks like Silver Birch won't get in (10st 5lbs) as he does come alive there. He might just sneak in but it looks like he will struggle," the Meath trainer admitted.

"The step up in trip and better ground have suited Backstage and the Grand National is a race which will suit him well. It will be great for the whole yard if he can win."

Willie Mullins admitted he would run as many of his 10 runners as possible and said yesterday: "I will run as many as I can but I think Deutschland (10st 12lbs) is too young, although he will come over here one day.

"Arbor Supreme has a good chance. He will love the ground, has a lovely weight (10st 8lbs) and is a nice age. But he wouldn't want the ground soft as he can't jump out of it.

"Snowy Morning (10st 13lbs) would be the best of mine but I don't think Ballytrim or Pomme Tiepy will get in. Jayo is too young and although Dooney's Gate is a nine-year-old we have only just found out that he doesn't stay."

Mullins added: "Beroni (10st 13lbs) has a lot of weight and while Irish Invader showed that he loved it last year, I am astounded at the weight he has got (11st 5lbs). He is entered at the weekend and may run then and will have one if not two outings before the National."

Tom Taaffe hit the crossbar in the race with Slim Pickings and he looks set to be represented by Cane Brake who has been mapped out for the race by the former Gold Cup-winning trainer.

"Cane Brake (10st 8lbs) has been trained for the race and we'll continue to look that way for him.

"I'd quite like Treacle to get into the race as well but I'm not sure if we will off 10st, we'll just have to see. I guess if he doesn't we'll have a look at the Irish National for him."


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