Grand National: Top weight Minella Rocco has 'great chance'

Minella Rocco
Minella Rocco did not run in the Cheltenham Gold Cup race this year because of the rain-softened conditions
Randox Health Grand National
Date: 14 April Venue: Aintree Racecourse Time: 17:15 BST
Meeting: 12-14 April Coverage: BBC Radio 5 live, sports extra and sport website More details

Minella Rocco has the potential to overcome top weight and win next month's Grand National, says trainer Jonjo O'Neill.

Last year's Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up did not run in the race this year because of the conditions.

"I think he has a great chance in the National if the ground dries up," O'Neill told BBC Sport.

Minella Rocco heads the list of 73 acceptors for the National at Aintree on 14 April.

Definitly Red, Edwulf and Outlander are among 17 to have been withdrawn.

The National is a handicap chase, with each runner allotted a different weight to carry by the official handicapper Phil Smith.

Minella Rocco, rated a 16-1 chance by bookmakers, will bid to become the first top weight to win since the legendary Red Rum in 1974.

The eight-year-old, who has had wind operations to help with his breathing, is set to carry 11st 10lb after the weights rose 3lb at the latest scratchings stage.

Blaklion, next in the weights on 11st 9lb, is 10-1 joint favourite alongside Total Recall.

O'Neill won the National in 2010 with Don't Push It, ridden by AP McCoy, under a weight of 11st 5lb.

"Minella Rocco would be a better horse on form. Don't Push It wouldn't be a Gold Cup horse," said O'Neill.

"He's a better horse but it's a better race. If the ground is good, with a bit of luck, and he jumps well, I'd be pretty confident."

Jonjo O'Neill
Trainer Jonjo O'Neill won the Grand National in 2010 with Don't Push It, ridden by AP McCoy

Walsh seeks landmark win

A maximum of 40 horses will line up on the day, with the Willie Mullins-trained Childrens List currently the last one guaranteed a run.

Katie Walsh is set to ride 50-1 chance Baie Des Iles, trained by her husband Ross O'Sullivan, as she bids to become the first female jockey to win the race.

"There's great excitement. To be here with my husband will be brilliant," said Walsh, who finished third on Seabass in 2012.

Handicapper Smith said several horses would carry more, based on recent form, if he was able to recalibrate the weights since they were announced last month.

Those 'well in' for the race include Anibale Fly (9lb), Bellshill (7lb), Shantou Flyer (5lb), Rathvinden (4lb) and Tiger Roll (2lb).

Police happy despite clash

Merseyside Police insist they are confident of coping with Liverpool playing at home just minutes after the Grand National starts at 17:15 BST.

The Premier League match against Bournemouth at Anfield has been chosen for live TV coverage and will kick off at 17:30 BST.

Aintree is set for a crowd of about 70,000 while Anfield can expect 53,000 fans.

Chief constable Andy Cooke said: "I'm confident people will have a good time, they will be safely policed and I don't foresee any problems."

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