All change in National field following late withdrawals

A late raft of non-runners on Friday lunchtime saw three reserves sneak into the final field for Saturday’s Randox Grand National at Aintree.

Commodore, School Boy Hours and Romain De Senam moved into the 40-strong line up as Phoenix Way, Easysland and Lord Du Mesnil stepped aside.

Trained by Venetia Williams, who won the Aintree spectacular with 100-1 shot Mon Mome back in 2009, Commodore was poised to take advantage of any late absentees as first reserve for the big race.

Not seen since winning at Cheltenham back in December, 10-year-old will now get his chance in the extended four-and-a-quarter-mile contest as the Harry Fry-trained Phoenix Way was ruled out due to a temperature.

Commodore, who will be partnered by Charlie Deutsch, will race as number 33, directly filling the slot left by Phoenix Way.

Charlie Deutsch is thrilled to make the National line up
Charlie Deutsch is thrilled to make the National line up (Tim Goode/PA)

Deutsch said: “I’m really looking forward to it, it’s certainly a nice surprise. I was looking forward to riding him whichever race he went for, but it’s a bonus to be in the Grand National.

“He hasn’t run on the National Course before but he normally jumps his fences well and I don’t see why he wouldn’t handle them. He gets in a nice rhythm normally and he normally likes to get on the front end.

“Whether we’ll be quick enough to dictate in a race like this I don’t know, but we’ll just try to get ourselves into a good rhythm. It’s a long old way so whatever will be, will be.

“I’ve had two spins before in the Grand National on the same horse (Houblon Des Obeaux), finishing 10th in the first year and falling at Becher’s Brook the second year, so it’s nice to have another go.

“You’ve got to be in it to win it and you want to be taking part rather than sat on the bench, so it’s great. There’s a lot of luck involved in a Grand National but it’s great to be in and we’ll give it our best shot.

“It’s a very special race and even if you’re not riding in it, you get a buzz just watching them going to the first and throughout. There’s nothing like it and just to get a good run in it tomorrow and give the horse a nice time – never mind win – would be fantastic.

“I wouldn’t even be thinking about winning it to be honest! That would be a dream, but we’ll take part and try our best.”

Sean Flanagan and School Boy Hours with trainer Noel Meade
Sean Flanagan and School Boy Hours with trainer Noel Meade (Niall Carson/PA)

The Noel Meade-trained and Sean Flanagan-ridden School Boy Hours won the Paddy Power Chase on his penultimate start and he will be number three, the number vacated by Easysland, who is the victim of an unsatisfactory scope.

Flanagan has had a pilot’s licence since 2020 and he will be co-piloting his flight to Liverpool on Saturday.

He said: “I’m riding at Ballinrobe today (Friday), so I’m going to be flying over tomorrow morning to John Lennon Airport, so it will be a bit of craic to top off the day!

“My plane is actually getting a bit of maintenance done, so myself and a friend of mine are going to be flying over his plane instead.

“I’ve been to a few airports now but Liverpool is definitely one of the bigger ones! It’s a fantastic buzz and to be able to fly to the races like that is just great. I kind of started out just doing it as a bit of fun and to be able to utilise it in everyday work is a big help.”

Flanagan was originally booked to ride Coko Beach for Gordon Elliott but he made a quick switch to School Boy Hours after winning on him at Leopardstown over Christmas. Jonjo O’Neill jnr picks up the spare aboard Coko Beach.

He added: “We were always hopeful that he was going to get in and he has thankfully and I’ve been able to switch.

“He’s a fabulous big, strapping chasing type of a horse and I’ve always been looking on a little bit enviously. Obviously he’s owned by Mr (JP) McManus who has his own men so I’ve always been envious of the lads who have had the chance to ride him. Eventually, when I did, everything seemed to fall into place for him.

“If he takes to jumping the bigger fences – which, touch wood, I think he will – he does go there with quite a chance. He’s got a lovely racing weight on his back (10st 5lb) and everything will hopefully fall into place.

“The further he goes, the better he is and a test of stamina is where he’s at his best. I actually said he was an English National horse the second he pulled up (after winning) that day – but he’ll have to jump.”

Comply or Die (right) won the National for David Pipe in 2008
Comply or Die (right) won the National for David Pipe in 2008 (David Davies/PA)

Romain De Senam was due to run in Friday’s Topham Chase over the National fences but with Lord Du Mesnil taken out on account of the ground, he will now race in the main event as number 17 for trainer David Pipe – winner of the race in 2008 with Comply Or Die.

Pipe said: “It’s always great to have a runner and it’s Philip Armson’s first ride over the fences. He doesn’t seem to be the quickest but he’ll keep galloping and if he takes to it, who knows how well he could do.”

Roi Mage was the fourth reserve and is the only one to miss out at the 1pm deadline.

The British Horseracing Authority explained the reserve policy, tweeting: “Following a recent industry consultation it was agreed that 1pm was the latest that reserves should be permitted without having a detrimental impact on the publication of racecards, and various betting-related revenue streams, both domestic and international.”

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