A total of 18 Irish-trained horses are assured of a spot in Saturday’s Randox Aintree Grand National, although the raiders could yet become 19. Co Meath-based trainer John McConnell faces an anxious wait with his hope Some Neck first reserve to get into the National should one of the 40 declared starters drop out before 1pm on Friday.
It might prove even more stressful for Welsh trainer Evan Williams as the highly fancied Secret Reprieve is second reserve and needs two to drop out.
However, the appeal of the world’s most famous steeplechase means slots are coveted, as evidenced by a single defection – The Storyteller – at Thursday’s final declaration stage.
So while half a dozen of the 40 runners are triple-digit odds in some betting lists, and more than another 10 are 66-1 or over, one of the most likely winners could still be denied a run.
Williams, however, appeared resigned to his fate on Thursday despite the lingering hope his young star could get in.
“We’ve had a lot worse news regarding horses. We knew there was a chance that would happen so there’s no point worrying about things we can’t control,” he said.
“We took a punt about getting in the National and it’s not going to work out. That’s the way it is. The great things about missing out on getting into the National is they dropped him 2lb for anywhere we want to go now next year. Every cloud has a silver lining.
“I’m certainly not worried. He’s a young horse. Fingers crossed he’ll have his day again in the sun somewhere down the line. He’s gone and won a Welsh National. It was only his sixth start over fences. He’s had a mighty season,” Williams added.
Champion jockey Paul Townend won't be in action in Liverpool due to the foot injury he picked up at Fairyhouse last weekend.
It means the sport's most successful amateur, Patrick Mullins, steps in for the National ride on Burrows Saint and a shot at joining an exclusive club.
Victory for Burrows Saint would see Patrick and Willie Mullins emulate the father and son team of Ruby and Ted Walsh that won in 2000 with Papillon. A year previously Paul and Tommy Carberry were successful with Bobbyjo.
Katie Walsh remains the woman who has got closest to riding a National winner when third on Seabass in 2012 and three women will get the chance to create history on Saturday.
Rachael Blackmore teams up with the JP McManus-owned Minella Times who has been significantly supported down to a general 12-1.
Bryony Frost is on the Paul Nicholls-trained Yala Enki while Tabitha Worsley rides the 100-1 outsider Sub Lieutenant.
The horse they all look like having to beat, however, is the 4-1 favourite Cloth Cap who will bid to give owner Trevor Hemmings a fourth win in the race.
Should fortune not favour Some Neck in getting into the National his stable companion Streets Of Doyen could still give John McConnell a landmark Grade One on Friday.
Streets Of Doyen lines up in the Doom Bar Sefton Novice Hurdle over an extended three miles.
The seven-year-old ran a fine third to Vanillier in Cheltenham's Albert Bartlett three weeks ago and renews hostilities with a number of rivals that finished behind him that day. The most dangerous of them could be Alaphilippe.
Irish representation in Friday’s three other Grade One races is confined to three horses with the home team having the Betway Mildmay Novices Chase confined to the home team.
Topping the runners in that is the Cheltenham winner Chantry House, although his form was hardly franked by Asterion Forlonge at Fairyhouse on Easter Sunday.
Espoir de Roamy's official rating isn't far behind Chantry House and he looks to be still progressive on the back of an easy Leicester success last time.
The handful of Irish runners in the Topham over the National fences includes Livelovelaugh whose trainer Mullins landed this with Cadmium in 2019.
Nicky Henderson has a particularly good Topham record and could fancy his chances this time with Caribean Boy.