I Just Know is among 73 horses to have stood their ground for the Randox Health Grand National.
Trained at Bingley by Sue Smith, who won the Aintree spectacular with Auroras Encore in 2013, I Just Know landed the North Yorkshire Grand National at Catterick in January before finishing second over the smaller obstacles at Uttoxeter last weekend.
The eight-year-old is currently 34th on the list and will carry 10st 7lb, and Smith has also left in Delusionofgrandeur (10-4) and Vintage Clouds (10-3), although they need more withdrawals to make the final 40-runner line-up.
Original top-weight Definitly Red has been taken out by Brian Ellison following his defeat in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, and the weights are now headed by Jonjo O’Neill’s Minella Rocco.
Runner-up to Sizing John in last season’s Gold Cup, the JP McManus-owned gelding was in line for another crack at the blue riband before being declared a non-runner on account of the testing conditions.
O’Neill has since confirmed the eight-year-old an intended runner in the National on April 14 and he will carry the welter burden of 11st 10lb.
Speaking from Aintree at a Grand National northern media lunch, O’Neill said: “The ground got very heavy (at Cheltenham) and, as we all know, he’s got a wind problem and that ground wouldn’t help him, so we saved him for here.
“So long as we get good ground, we’ve a good chance.
“He’s won over four miles, so he just has to get another half a mile. Top weight isn’t ideal, but that’s the way it is and he’s a big horse, so hopefully he can carry it.
“He jumps well and keeps galloping, so the National was always at the back of my mind.”
The Jackdaws Castle handler memorably provided Tony McCoy with his only National success aboard Don’t Push It in 2010 and would love to add to his tally.
He added: “You need a lot of luck and obviously a horse that jumps and stays.
“On paper, this fellow would be a better horse than Don’t Push It, but everything has to go right.”
O’Neill has a potential second string to his bow in Go Conquer (10st 13lb), and said: “Whether he comes for the Topham or the National, I’m not sure.
“The National is a fantastic race and it’s worth a lot of money. Just to be part of it and enjoy it is magical. Aintree has an electricity around it and to be involved in anything here is fantastic.”
Second on the list behind Minella Rocco is ante-post favourite Blaklion, who is now on 11st 9lb after the weights were raised 3lb. The nine-year-old is a best-priced 12-1 to provide trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies with a third National success following the victories of Earth Summit (1998) and Bindaree (2002).
The Irish challenge is headed by the Willie Mullins-trained Total Recall (11st 4lb), who was still in contention when falling three fences from the finish in the Gold Cup on Friday.
Tiger Roll (10st 12lb) emerged as a leading contender for Gordon Elliott by winning the Glenfarclas Chase around Cheltenham’s cross-country course.
Stablemate Cause Of Causes (11st 1lb) disappointed in the same race when bidding for a fourth Festival success, but was runner-up in last year’s National.
The Last Samuri (11st 7lb), third in the Glenfarclas Chase and runner-up in the 2016 Grand National, remains on course for a return to Merseyside.
Other potential runners include Gold Cup third Anibale Fly (11st 7lb), Bellshill (10st 10lb) and Gold Present (11st 3lb).
Trainer David O’Meara has warned that ante-post favourite Lord Glitters is not a certain runner in the 32Red Lincoln at Doncaster on Saturday.
Connections went to €270,000 to secure the French import last summer and he went some way to repaying that hefty fee when landing the Balmoral Handicap on Champions Day at Ascot in October.
He was last seen suffering a narrow reverse in a Listed event at Newmarket in November and is as short as 6-1 for the traditional Flat season curtain-raiser, but O’Meara is in two minds about letting him line up on Town Moor.
He said: “We’re still undecided whether we’re going to run him or not. If it’s very soft or even heavy we might have a rethink. He’s going to have near on top-weight and I’m just not sure yet.
“I’ve put him in the Listed race (Doncaster Mile) as an alternative. He worked this morning and we’re very happy with him.”
“He does go on soft ground. It’s just giving away a lot of weight on soft ground on his first run of the season might be a slight concern.
“We’d hope that he’d have some nice targets later on and I don’t want to completely bottom him for his first run.
“I’ll have a chat with the owners tomorrow and base the decision on what everybody thinks. We’ll decide on Thursday morning.”