MUCH as he loves horses, Tony McCoy will be quite prepared to turn his back on the one which has brought him, if not the most fortune, certainly the most fame.
Last year's Grand National winner Don't Push It is just one of several that the 15-times champion jockey could ride in this year's Aintree showpiece and he will not let sentiment stand in the way of his choice come the big day in April.
"I'll always be indebted to Don't Push It," he said yesterday as the weights for the 164th running of the great race were unveiled in London, "but if one of the others was looking better, then that's where I'd go.
"I'm a complete statistics person and no horse has won back-to-back Nationals since Red Rum in the '70s, it's such a hard thing to do. It is the greatest race, no doubt about it, but last year's is last year's; it's in the past. And I'm looking to the future."
McCoy is 10/1 with Totesport to repeat his feat of last year. Jonjo O'Neill, Don't Push It's trainer, has two other bearers of the JP McManus colours -- Synchronised and Can't Buy Time -- in his squad and favours the latter.
"Don't Push It is hard to keep sound and in the mood and we were lucky last year that the big race coincided with one of his good days," he said.
"Synchronised wouldn't be as good as him, and is high enough in the handicap. But Can't Buy Time has a nice racing weight, is a good jumper and likes spring ground."
Don't Push It shares top weight of 11st 10lb with the classy grey Neptune Collonges, one of 10 from the Paul Nicholls stable. Nicholls is one man fervently hoping that statistics can be defied, for the best placing achieved by any of his 48 runners to date was Royal Auclair's second place six years ago.
"We try not to think about that," he said. The five-times champion trainer, 10/1 to break his Aintree duck, nominated 2009 Irish National winner Niche Market, jostling for favouritism with Ballabriggs, as his best hope -- the 10-year-old has had airway surgery since his fifth in the Hennessy in November -- and lightly weighted Ornais as his long-shot.
Ireland's leading trainer Willie Mullins has won the John Smith's-sponsored prize with Hedgehunter.
He, too, is mob-handed, with a team of nine, and the one he singled out as his dark horse may add to McCoy's options; Quiscover Fontaine is another of JP McManus' hopes. "We were going to keep him for the Irish National," said Mullins, "but with 10st 6lb he'll get a run at Aintree, and it could be a very good mark."
Irish handicapper Noel O'Brien, when asked for a view of his country's raiders, said: "Bluesea Cracker (10st 4lb), who won the Irish National last year and Oscar Time (10st 9lb), who won the Paddy Power in 2009, both have lovely racing weights.
"Oscar Time is a very impressive horse. He will love the trip but I'm not so sure about the ground, which is a huge concern. But of the Irish horses, he might be the one who is best handicapped." (© Independent News Service)
market leaders and weights
16/1 Ballabriggs (11st 0lb)
16/1 Niche Market (10st 13lb)
20/1 Big Fella Thanks (11st 1lb)
20/1 Don't Push It (11st 10lb)
20/1 Hello Bud (10st 5lb)
20/1 Merigo (10st 1lb)
20/1 Midnight Chase (11st 8lb)
20/1 Synchronised (11st 6lb)
20/1 The Midnight Club (10st 13lb)
25/1 Becauseicouldntsee (10st 8lb)
25/1 Bluesea Cracker (10st 4lb)
25/1 Majestic Concorde (11st 5lb)
25/1 Neptune Collonges (11st 10lb)
25/1 Notre Pere (10st 11lb)
25/1 Oscar Time (10st 9lb)
25/1 Silver By Nature (10st 12lb)
25/1 State Of Play (10st 6lb)
25/1 West End Rocker (10st 5lb)