Racing: Five join McManus' Clan for Aintree attack

If quantity was the only criterion for victory, then JP McManus's name would already be inscribed on this year's Grand National trophy. The legendary Irish bookmaker-turned-punter will field six horses in Saturday's 158th running of the Aintree showpiece, a record for an owner. Last year's runner-up, Clan Royal, the mount of Tony McCoy and currently 10-1 second-favourite, will lead the green, white and gold attack, backed up by Le Coudray, Risk Accessor, Spot Thedifference, Shamawan and Innox.

If quantity was the only criterion for victory, then JP McManus's name would already be inscribed on this year's Grand National trophy. The legendary Irish bookmaker-turned-punter will field six horses in Saturday's 158th running of the Aintree showpiece, a record for an owner. Last year's runner-up, Clan Royal, the mount of Tony McCoy and currently 10-1 second-favourite, will lead the green, white and gold attack, backed up by Le Coudray, Risk Accessor, Spot Thedifference, Shamawan and Innox.

The significant name missing from the McManus masses - his original entry was 18 - is First Gold, who has been diverted from spruce to birch. The François Doumen-trained 12-year-old will run in tomorrow's three mile one furlong Grade Two chase over the conventional obstacles on the Mildmay Course, a race he won in 2001 and 2003, and in which he finished second last year. "He's dropped down the weights and seems well-treated in it," McManus's racing manager, Frank Berry, said yesterday. "He ran a blinder in it off top weight last year and François feels that with the ground going soft it was worth having another crack at it."

Le Coudray, who was travelling well in seventh in last year's National when falling at Becher's second time round, will carry top weight of 11st 12lb on Saturday. The 11-year-old, trained by Christy Roche, has run only twice since last year's effort, most recently when pulled up in the Irish National nine days ago. "He got squeezed up on the bend and seemed to lose his action behind," Berry added, "but he is absolutely fine now. He has a lot of weight, but he took to the course well last year."

Conor O'Dwyer will again be in the saddle, and Robert Thornton will ride McManus's recent purchase Innox, a winner at Sandown last month. Jockeys have yet to be decided for Spot Thedifference, who was fifth in the National 12 months ago, Risk Accessor, who unseated at the first Becher's, and Shamawan. "We will see what jockeys are around," Berry said, "but they are all intended runners."

Playing the numbers game, however, is no guarantee of success. In the last four years Martin Pipe has saddled 32 National participants, including a trainers' record 10 in 2001. His reward has been three third places, two from Blowing Wind and one from Lord Atterbury last year.

The 14-times champion handler runs a mere four on Saturday, and yesterday revealed his riding arrangements. The Nicholashayne stable jockey Timmy Murphy has opted for It Takes Time, leaving Mark Bradburne to renew his partnership with Lord Atterbury. Tom Scudamore will be on Iznogoud and Tom Malone on Polar Red.

The confirmation of Le Coudray as an intended runner means the weights will not rise. The absence of First Gold will be good news for connections of Peter Beaumont's charge Hunters Tweed, who had been 41st on the list for a race with a safety limit of 40, but those of Longshanks must sweat it out for a bit longer.

Six more horses higher in the handicap than the well-supported eight-year-old - who is around 16-1 - must drop out for him to make the cut, meaning the trainer Kim Bailey faces a dilemma. Longshanks is also entered in Friday's Topham Trophy, in which he finished second last year, and for which declarations have to be made tomorrow, as they do for the National. "It is all a bit of a problem," Bailey said. "If he ends up as first reserve for the National I'd be fined for not running in the Topham after having declared for it and might end up with a horse who hasn't run in either."

The inclusion of Hunters Tweed will bring the challenge of Trevor Hemmings, another owner with a long-standing desire to take the sport's most famous steeplechase, to three. His main hope, the Willie Mullins-trained favourite Hedgehunter, attracted more support yesterday and is down to 7-1. "The housewives may well pile their housekeeping money on Carrie Ford and Forest Gunner," Coral's spokesman Simon Clare said, "but the serious cash from Ireland will ensure that Hedgehunter still heads the market come racetime."

Following yesterday's dry morning, the official going on the National course has changed to good, good to soft in places, while it is good on the Mildmay and hurdles courses.

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