Big punter no longer has Time on his side: Racing

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Time For A Run proved to be painfully ill-named yesterday when the heavily backed Irish runner, as low as 10-1 for the Grand National, was withdrawn from Saturday's race. Instead, it is time for a rest for Eddie O'Grady's gelding, who has injured a leg just a week after a punter walked into a London branch of William Hill and put pounds 20,000 (plus tax) on the horse.

Time For A Run is owned by J P McManus, a man who is known to enjoy the odd bet, and while we may never know if the London backer and J P are one and the same, the punter has also - perhaps by pure co-incidence - staked a large sum on Wylde Hide, McManus's other contender for the race. "I don't know exactly what the injury is," the owner said at Fairyhouse yesterday, "but I am told he has chipped a joint and obviously he is out of Aintree, which is a bit of a blow at this stage."

Time For A Run was due to be partnered by Norman Williamson, who may now switch to the horse he steered to victory in the 1995 Gold Cup, Master Oats. The participation of the top-weight has been in some doubt ever since the handicap was published in February, but it now seems increasingly likely that he will line up on Saturday. Kim Bailey, his trainer, will walk the course before this morning's final declaration stage, but he said yesterday that "it's going to take very fast ground for him not to run. They're calling it good and I'm sure it is, although it's no formality at the moment."

Just to be sure, Aintree started watering the track yesterday. "On the National course, the going remains good," Ian Renton, assistant clerk of the course, said, "varying from the easy side of good to the quicker side in a few places. We are putting on up to 6mm of water with the aim of removing any fast ground, and the forecast is for a bit of drizzle tonight, which will assist us."

Another National runner to find himself a partner yesterday was Tim Forster's General Wolfe, who will set off with Lorcan Wyer in his saddle on Saturday. Wyer's last visit to Aintree five months ago was a disastrous one, as the jockey suffered severe facial injuries in a fall from the hurdler Thornton Gate. Given the race's reputation for storybook finales, it would not be surprising to see his mount, who has a solid form chance, figure prominently.

"It's fantastic news," Wyer said yesterday. "I will give him a gentle school tomorrow and it will be a case of getting to know each other. I've generally had a bit of luck at Aintree, I won the Becher Chase on Kildimo, but my National record is not great, though I got to the 19th on Joint Sovereignty one year."

Forster, for whom pessimism is as natural as breathing, is also surprisingly upbeat about General Wolfe's prospects. "He couldn't be better and I think he's got a perfectly good chance," the man who has already saddled three National winners, more than any other trainer with a runner on Saturday, said. "Chepstow [where General Wolfe was well beaten behind Belmont King last month] was the first poor race he has run. It may have come too quickly after his hard race at Haydock, which was his first for a long time, and the ground was also particularly sticky."

Jamie Evans, the Australian jockey who won the Coral Cup at Cheltenham on Martin Pipe's Big Strand, was booked by the same trainer yesterday for Mugoni Beach, a 150-1 chance. Kim Bailey's Glemot, meanwhile, remains riderless, but gained a significant number of supporters when Dennis Yardy, his owner, announced that a quarter of any prize-money he earns on Saturday will be donated to Sheffield's children's hospital, where two of his grandchildren were treated recently.

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