Hedgehunter, last year’s John Smith’s Grand National hero, will share joint top weight of 11st 12lb in this year’s race, following the withdrawal of Monkerhostin. A total of 96 horses are left in the line-up at the second forfeit stage for next month’s Aintree marathon (8 April) and 58 of them have been allocated 10 stone or more in the weights.

Willie Mullins’ Hedgehunter, who was originally allocated 11st 10lb, is now 5-1 joint-favourite with Clan Royal. The pair will both carry top weight even though Hedgehunter finished runner-up in last week’s Cheltenham Gold Cup and Clan Royal pulled in ninth. Clan Royal, who finished second to Amberleigh House in the 2004 National and was travelling well when being carried out in last year’s race, is one of 10 J P McManus-owned entries still in the 2006 contest. Others include the Racing Post Chase winner Innox, trained in France by Francois Doumen.

Ginger McCain, who trained Red Rum to a record three wins in the 1970s, has the veteran Amberleigh House entered, along with Ebony Light. McCain believes Amberleigh House has a good chance of repeating his 2004 success despite being aged 14.

Hedgehunter is one of 19 horses bidding to continue Ireland’s fine recent record in the race, with Irish horses winning four of the last seven runnings. Other contenders include the 2005 Irish Grand National winner Numbersixvalverde, trained by Martin Brassil, Ted Walsh’s Betfred Gold Cup hero Jack High and Ned Mitchell’s Garvivonnian.

Monkerhostin is one of 26 horses taken out along with A Glass In Thyne, One Knight, and the Martin Pipe quartet, Comply Or Die, Joaaci, Iris Bleu and Zeta’s River.

Horses withdrawn at the second forfeit stage: Monkerhostin, Hi Cloy, One Knight, Joacci, Comply or Die, Harbour Pilot, Ned Kelly, Euro Leader, Made in Japan, Iris Bleu, A Glass in Thyne, Tamango, Zeta’s River, Ivoire de Beaulieu, Foly Pleasant, Joe Blake, John James, Boneyarrow, Ross River, Tribal Venture, Lord Maizey, Shardam, A New Story, Alcapone, Keepatem, Red Striker.