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National weight of Any Second Now ‘absolutely shocked’ Walsh.

After Any Second Now was given joint topweight for this year’s Randox Grand National, trainer Ted Walsh was “absolutely shocked.”

The 11-year-old will attempt to win the world’s most prestigious steeplechase for the third time next month under the world record weight of 11st 12lb, which was officially announced on Tuesday at an annual event in Liverpool. The 11-year-old has finished third and second in the previous two editions of the race.

Any Second Now, in Walsh’s opinion, would need to be an “exceptional horse” to join the list of honorees, despite the fact that he and his son Ruby won the Grand National in a memorable partnership with Papillon in 2000.

“All I can say is that I know he’s not Red Rum, I know he’s not a Crisp and he’s not a L’Escargot, so make your own mind up,” said the trainer.

“I’m absolutely shocked that he has top-weight. He goes there in as good form as he did last year. He is in as good nick as he was last year, but he’s got top-weight so make your own mind up.

“I think he’d have to be an exceptional horse to win it with top-weight.”

Reflecting on his previous National triumph, he added: “Winning with Papillon was great. Winning the National is an outstanding moment, but to have your son on board makes it all the sweeter.”

Any Second Now is joined at the top of the weights by Conflated, Gordon Elliott’s winner of the Irish Gold Cup in 2022, and Hewick, Shark Hanlon’s winner of the American Grand National, who are both first-time participants in the Cheltenham Gold Cup next month.

Galvin, Conflated’s stablemate, and Noble Yeats, last year’s winner and trained by Emmet Mullins, are just below that trio on 11st 11lb.

The latter was last third in the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham, and he is now on track for the Gold Cup before attempting to win on Merseyside in consecutive races.

Mullins said: “I can’t complain with a rating of 166. It’s 19lb more than last year which will be a big ask, but he seems to have progressed well this year and we know he takes to the fences.

“It’s horses for courses and fingers crossed he can put up a bold show.”

Noble Yeats will try to become the only horse in history to win both the Gold Cup and the Grand National at the same time, joining Golden Miller in 1934. Mullins, on the other hand, is not exaggerating.

“It’s definitely one race at a time,” he said. “You don’t think of the accolades but if he is lucky enough to do it, then he’ll get the accolades that he deserves.

“It’s special to have a horse run in those types of races, a Gold Cup or a Grand National, but to have a horse who you know is good enough to compete in them at the business end – that’s the exciting part and what keeps the yard going.

“I would say it hasn’t really fully sunk in, even now. Winning the National on our first try in the race, it has probably been lost on me how much goes into it and how many other years people have been trying to win the race and not succeeded, so I’d say I’ve been spoilt a bit and it’s hard to comprehend what happened. I’m sure one day it’ll hit me.”

Mullins also has JP McManus-owned The Shunter (10st 11lb) entered, and added: “That’s (weight) about right. He’s still not qualified I think, on the distance, so potentially he might have an entry next weekend.

“I have two or three races earmarked before the deadline and, fingers crossed, I pick the right one and get him qualified. The intention will be to take his place then if he gets qualified.”

The English Horseracing Authority’s pursuit handicapper Martin Greenwood is the man accused of outlining the loads and is excited with the strength top to bottom in the current year’s restoration.

He said: “This year we are doing well at the top end for horses rated in the 150s and 160s and there are a handful of very good horses entered, including last year’s winner Noble Yeats.

“Noble Yeats has around 20lb more than last year, but his form this season in Graded races is the reason for that. The three horses at the top of the handicap – Conflated, Any Second Now and Hewick – you would think are all quite likely to run and it’s very positive that the quality of the race at the top end of the handicap is well up to standard.

“There weren’t any horses that caused me any particular difficulties this year – they were all more or less straightforward horses.”

With Henry de Bromhead reporting the retirement of 2021 victor Minella Times, a sum of 77 ponies stay in dispute.

Greenwood predicted that “around 142 or 143” would be the likely rating needed to make the final field. Rapper and Recite A Prayer, ranked 57th on the list, are two of the three horses rated 142 in Eva’s Oskar.

William Hill has lowered the odds on Lucinda Russell’s Corach Rambler (10st 5lb) and Willie Mullins’ Mr Incredible (10st 4lb), making Noble Yeats the 10-1 favorite.

Spokesperson Lee Phelps said: “Any Second Now looks to have been set a tough task to go one better than his second place finish last year and as a result he has been eased in our betting to 20-1 from 14-1.

“On the flip side both Corach Rambler (14-1 from 16-1) and Mr Incredible (20-1 from 25-1) have been clipped by our traders. Corach Rambler represents a yard in Lucinda Russell who has won the race recently and remains unexposed at extended trips, which look likely to suit.

“Mr Incredible could end up being the all-conquering Willie Mullins’ first string and is unexposed for the yard.”

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