Don Cossack heads the weights after 69 horses were entered for the Boylesports Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse on Easter Monday.
Gordon Elliott’s talented chaser finished second behind Holywell in the Mildmay Novices’ Chase at Aintree and will have to concede weight all round if he lines up at Fairyhouse in a fortnight’s time.
Recent winner Bog Warrior, who like Don Cossack carries the colours of Gigginstown House Stud, is next in the list on 11st 8lb, along with Saturday's Grand National third Double Seven, trained by Martin Brassil.
There are 11 British-trained contenders including Paul Webber’s Cantlow, Jonjo O’Neill’s Shutthefrontdoor and Richard Lee’s Mountainous.
The prestigious three-mile-five-furlong contest is one of the few major prizes to elude champion trainer Willie Mullins and he unsurprisingly has a plethora of entries including Prince De Beauchene, Vesper Bell, Touch The Eden and Away We Go.
Leading jockey Barry Geraghty has also never tasted Irish Grand National glory and he hopes this might be his year.
He said: “I’ve ridden in the race about 15 or 16 times and never won it. I’ve probably ridden about five or six favourites. I think fifth or sixth is about as good as I’ve got, it’s a race that always eluded me.
“My brother Ross won the race on The Bunny Boiler (2002) and he’s never shy about reminding me when he comes back from the States. I don’t have standout mount in the race at the moment.”
Jim Dreaper has both Goonyella and Los Amigos in contention.
Goonyella was among the reserves for the Aintree National but did not make the final field.
Dreaper said: “Both are intended runners at this stage, we think that both horses are well and both would be helped by soft ground.
“It could be for luck (that Goonyellla missed the cut at Aintree), it means that we can go to Fairyhouse a relatively fresh horse.
“Los Amigos is in good form, we know that he stays three miles well and we are hopeful that he will get three miles and five (furlongs).
“Just because he stayed three miles it doesn’t always follow that they will stay three and a half, but we are hopeful that this fellow will.”
Handicapper Noel O’Brien is impressed with the quality of the race, which was launched at Dot Love’s Mullingar yard.
He said: “It’s a very strong entry, especially at the top of the handicap.
“At the top end Gigginstown and JP McManus are very dominant.
“The race might suffer a little bit with the proximity to Aintree but that is always the case and the quality of the entry is shown by the fact you’d probably need a rating of about 135 to get into the race.
“It’s a big pot and people want to run in it. Because of big prize money and need to get into race, you have to perform to a certain level to get in.
“We don’t have that many long-distance handicap chasers, whether you’ll stay is the main question.”
O’Brien identified Home Farm and Gallant Oscar, who would both carry 10st 13lb at this stage, as his two to watch.
The race sponsors make Elliott’s Cause Of Causes their 10 to 1 favourite, ahead of Liam Lennon’s Foxhunter Chase winner Tammys Hill and Robert Tyner’s Daring Article, who are both available at 12 to 1.