Any Second Now, Conflated and Hewick handed joint top-weight for Grand National

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The 11-year-old has finished third and second in the last two renewals of the world's most famous steeplechase and will bid to make it third time lucky under the welter burden of 11st 12lb next month, after the weights were officially unveiled at an annual event in Liverpool on Tuesday. Walsh memorably teamed up with his son Ruby to claim Grand National glory with Papillon in 2000, but feels Any Second Now would need to be an "exceptional horse" to add his name to the roll of honour. "All I can say is that I know he's not Red Rum, I know he's not a Crisp and he's not a L'Escargot, so make your own mind up," said the trainer. "I'm absolutely shocked that he has top-weight. He goes there in as good form as he did last year. He is in as good nick as he was last year, but he's got top-weight so make your own mind up. "I think he'd have to be an exceptional horse to win it with top-weight." Reflecting on his previous National triumph, he added: "Winning with Papillon was great. Winning the National is an outstanding moment, but to have your son on board makes it all the sweeter." Any Second Now is joined at the head of the weights by Gordon Elliott's 2022 Irish Gold Cup victor Conflated and Shark Hanlon's American Grand National hero Hewick, both of whom are first bound for next month's Cheltenham Gold Cup. Just below that trio on 11st 11lb are Conflated's stablemate Galvin and last year's winner Noble Yeats, trained by Emmet Mullins. The latter was last seen finishing third in the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham and is now on course for the Gold Cup before an intended bid for back-to-back wins on Merseyside. Mullins said: "I can't complain with a rating of 166. It's 19lb more than last year which will be a big ask, but he seems to have progressed well this year and we know he takes to the fences. "It's horses for courses and fingers crossed he can put up a bold show." Noble Yeats will aim to become only the second horse in history - after Golden Miller in 1934 - to win the Gold Cup and the Grand National in the same year. Mullins, though, is not getting ahead of himself. "It's definitely one race at a time," he said. "You don't think of the accolades but if he is lucky enough to do it, then he'll get the accolades that he deserves. "It's special to have a horse run in those types of races, a Gold Cup or a Grand National, but to have a horse who you know is good enough to compete in them at the business end - that's the exciting part and what keeps the yard going. "I would say it hasn't really fully sunk in, even now. Winning the National on our first try in the race, it has probably been lost on me how much goes into it and how many other years people have been trying to win the race and not succeeded, so I'd say I've been spoilt a bit and it's hard to comprehend what happened. I'm sure one day it'll hit me." Mullins also has JP McManus-owned The Shunter (10st 11lb) entered, and added: "That's (weight) about right. He's still not qualified I think, on the distance, so potentially he might have an entry next weekend. "I have two or three races earmarked before the deadline and, fingers crossed, I pick the right one and get him qualified. The intention will be to take his place then if he gets qualified." The British Horseracing Authority's chase handicapper Martin Greenwood is the man charged with framing the weights and is thrilled with the strength in depth in this year's renewal. He said: "This year we are doing well at the top end for horses rated in the 150s and 160s and there are a handful of very good horses entered, including last year's winner Noble Yeats. "Noble Yeats has around 20lb more than last year, but his form this season in Graded races is the reason for that. The three horses at the top of the handicap - Conflated, Any Second Now and Hewick - you would think are all quite likely to run and it's very positive that the quality of the race at the top end of the handicap is well up to standard. "There weren't any horses that caused me any particular difficulties this year - they were all more or less straightforward horses." With Henry de Bromhead announcing the retirement of 2021 winner Minella Times, a total of 77 horses remain in contention. Greenwood suggested the likely rating required to make the final field will be "around 142 or 143". There are three horses rated 142 in Eva's Oskar, Rapper and Recite A Prayer, who is 57th on the list. Noble Yeats is the 10/1 favourite with most bookies, who have trimmed the odds of both Lucinda Russell's Corach Rambler (10st 5lb) and the Willie Mullins-trained Mr Incredible (10st 4lb).

Any Second Now has been eased to 20/1 from 14/1, while Corach Rambler has been clipped to 14/1 from 16/1 and Mr Incredible 20/1 from 25/1.

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