Top weight Outlander has been ruled out of the Grand National at Aintree by trainer Gordon Elliott.
The nine-year-old was handed 11st 10lb for the world-famous steeplechase, but Elliott says the Cheltenham Gold Cup contender will not run on 8 April.
Elliott boasts the most entries at 14, with Irish Gold Cup runner-up Empire Of Dirt and Don Poli also among the top four weights for the race.
Henry de Bromhead’s Champagne West is second at 11st 9lb.
The British Horseracing Authority said the result of the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown on Sunday had a “big effect on the top of the handicap”.
“It was the crucial race, two days before the weights,” said Phil Smith, who has handicapped the Grand National every year since 1999.
“When I get the entries, I have a train of thought and then something happens which means I have to change that.”
The weighting game
Allocation of weights is a pivotal moment for trainers, jockeys, owners and punters.
Unlike the Cheltenham Gold Cup, where horses race off level weights, the Grand National is a handicap.
Horses are ranked according to their previous form, with the best given top weight.
The handicapper’s ultimate (although in practice unfeasible) aim is for the horses to pass the winning post in a dead heat.
The closest finish came in 2012 when Neptune Collonges denied Sunnyhillboy by the shortest possible distance – a nose.
Lord Scoundrel (11st), Clarcam (10st 12lb) and Roi Des Francs (10st 12lb) are other possible representatives for Elliott, who won the Grand National with Silver Birch in 2007, and Gigginstown House Stud.
Gigginstown produced its first National winner last April with Rule The World and has 16 contenders this time around.
The Last Samuri was runner-up to Rule The World in 2016 carrying 10st 8lb, but Kim Bailey’s nine-year-old is set for 11st 5lb this time around.
December’s Becher Chase winner Vieux Lion Rouge is currently the last horse guaranteed entry in the 40-strong line-up at 10st 7lb.
“The top of the handicap is dominated by Irish-trained horses, which is a symbol of the respective strength of Irish and UK jump racing,” added Smith.