McCoy in line for fairytale finale
Traditionally Tony McCoy does not decide on his Crabbie's Grand National mount until the week of the race.
However, after Shutthefrontdoor was allotted 11st 2lb for the great steeplechase yesterday, there is a general presumption that he will ride last year's Irish National winner in this year's race, which will be the 19-times champion jockey's last before retirement.
Shutthefrontdoor is already the 12/1 clear favourite for the race on April 11 after winning his only start this season, at Carlisle in November.
Mike Dillon of Ladbrokes predicted that, should the jockey line up on the Jonjo O'Neill-trained gelding, he could be the subject of one of the biggest plunges in betting history and would be on the shortest-priced favourite since Red Rum was sent off at 7/2 in 1975.
Sod's Law would decree that he gets brought down at the first by another runner in the same ownership, but the National has never been averse to fairytale winners.
On top of all that, McCoy, who finally won the race at his 15th attempt on Don't Push It in 2010, has spent the past two decades defying the rules that constrain mere mortals.
"Shutthefrontdoor is in good form, he has had a few little issues but nothing major, and he has had a wind operation since Carlisle," O'Neill said of the eight-year-old.
"As much as anything, he has not run since because of the ground.
"He could either go to Cheltenham to run in a handicap chase, run in a hurdle or go straight there.
"He is a grand jumper, a good old traveller, so he would have a good chance if the jockey does not cock it up!"
When asked what victory would mean, O'Neill added: "It would be great to give him a good ride, but the National is the National so you can't be cocky.
"If we sent him off into retirement on a National winner it would be more than special. It would put the cream and a little cherry on top of the cake."
Whatever McCoy rides it will be in the green and gold McManus silks and had he been at yesterday's lunch in the Royal Opera House, at which the weights were revealed, he would not have been short of advice on which of the owner's six entries to choose.
Phil Smith, the handicapper who framed the weights for the 17th time, suggested that McCoy should ride Irish Hennessy winner Carlingford Lough, the joint top-weight with Lord Windermere, "because he is the best horse in the race".
Despite the chairman of both Aintree and Crabbie's, Rose Paterson and Judy Halewood respectively, both being women, the chances of a female jockey finally succeeding look slim.
Having glanced through the entries, Katie Walsh, who was third on Seabass in 2012, thought she was unlikely to get a ride, but put up Clause Of Clauses, another McManus possible, as a horse with a "sneaky chance".
The top five in the weights - Carlingford Lough, Lord Windermere, Many Clouds, Sam Winner and Boston Bob - all have the Gold Cup as their first target. However, with an early Festival (it starts on Tuesday, March 10) and a late Aintree (the National meeting begins on Thursday, April 9) because of Easter, the gap between races is 29 days - a week longer than usual.
If the Gold Cup-National double is ever doable, it is this year.
Back-to-back wins is another story, however. Last year's winner Pineau De Re is set to carry 11st, which is 8lb more than the 10st 6lb he carried to victory last year.
Two horses, Rajdhani Express and Poole Master, have yet to qualify because they have not been placed in the first four in a three-mile chase, even though Poole Master won over the National fences in November. (© Daily Telegraph, London)