Trainer Phil Kirby has confirmed stable star Blaklion has been ruled out of the Randox Health Grand National after suffering a setback.
The 10-year-old had been expected to compete in the feature race at next week’s Aintree Festival. The bay gelding was last in action in February when he finished fifth in the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle at Haydock.
He also raced in December and January but Blaklion’s last win came in 2017 when winning at the Merseyside track. As a result, owners Darren and Annaley Yates had been confident of a good performance having been bought out of Nigel Twiston-Davies’ yard in February.
However, Kirby has now removed him out of the extended four-and-a-quarter-mile feature on Friday morning and the 2017 Becher Chase winner may now be finished for the season.
He said: “He’s got a back joint problem and he won’t be running next week.
“I’m disappointed, the owners really wanted to have a National runner and we’ve done everything we can to get him there in one piece. It’s not something that will stop him forever, but most likely for this season.”
Blaklion’s withdrawal now means ante-post favourite Tiger Roll has even less competition to handle next week. He won in style for trainer Gordon Elliott at the Cheltenham Festival.
Bristol De Mai was withdrawn from the race on Wednesday by connections, meaning Anibale Fly currently tops the weights ahead of the big race.
The likes of Stepback, Alpha Des Obeaux and Valtor all still run in what is set to be a fascinating race.