National run in balance for 'nuts' Maljimar

The die is almost cast. This morning, the final declarations will be made for the Grand National. After his excusable prevarications, the name of Tony McCoy will appear next to that of Butler's Cabin. And, horses being the fragile animals they are, at least one of the 40 currently guaranteed a run will drop out overnight.

Maljimar will be first to benefit, and few would deny that he deserves a change of luck after being caught on the line by McCoy and Wichita Lineman at Cheltenham last month. Next in line to creep into the race, in order, would be Companero, Pomme Tiepy, Niche Market, Mattock Ranger, Iron Man, Flintoff and Patsy Hall. The latter would be an extremely interesting candidate, but sadly needs an epidemic of withdrawals.

Not that Maljimar's connections will be deceived that their problems are over then. He is trained by Nick Williams, in the colours of his wife, Jane, who yesterday confessed their fears that the horse will let the occasion get to him.

"He went absolutely nuts before his first start this season," she said. "He threw away his chance away before the race even started. He was much better at Cheltenham last month, but I'm worried he won't like the preliminaries, particularly the parade, and especially if it's a hot day."

Dessie Hughes, trainer of Irish fancy Black Apalachi insisted that he horse does not require ground as testing as when he won over the National fences in November. "I think they will leave the ground very safe and good, good to soft on the day," Hughes said. "I'd be very happy with that. It's all about jumping, the National. He jumped exceptionally well that day."

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