What A Friend: beating Carruthers in the 2010 Bowl at AintreePICTURE: John Grossick (racingpost.com/photos)
What A Friend set for top weight in Grand National
THE top three in the weights for the John Smith's Grand National all look likely to be absent from the £950,000 marathon at Aintree on April 6 leaving Sir Alex Ferguson's What A Friend to carry top weight.
Top-weight Albertas Run was named among 16 entries removed at the second scratchings stage on Tuesday, as was Quito De La Roque, who was third in the list.
The one sandwiched between them, 2010 Gold Cup hero Imperial Commander, is not a certain runner.
Their absence will ensure that the National weights rise by at least 5lb, placing What A Friend at the head of the list. The Paul Nicholls-trained chaser, who Ferguson owns in partnership with Ged Mason, was pulled up before four out in the 2011 National won by Ballabriggs and returned to the meeting last year when seventh in the Betfred Bowl. His one run since resulted in an eighth place in the Racing Plus Chase at Kempton in February.
Colm Murphy, who trains Quito De La Roque, said: "He was going to end up with nearly top weight so he'll probably run in the (Betfred) Bowl on the Thursday of Aintree instead. It's a case of so far so good with him. We were happy with him the last day and he has been good since."
Others among the 16 contenders officially out of the reckoning include Alfie Sherrin, who is 8-1 joint-favourite for the Irish Grand National, and Tartak, who ran third in the Byrne Group Plate at the Cheltenham Festival.
The National market is led by the appropriately named On His Own, who fell in the race last year but has since won the Grade 2 Ladbrokes Boyne Hurdle in February.
Should What A Friend be top weight his Willie Mullins-trained rival will run off 11st 1lb.
Donald McCain will run three in the Grand National; 2011 hero Ballabriggs, who he has named as his best hope, Weird Al and Across The Bay.
A total of 57 contenders remain for a race with a maximum field size of 40.