Top-weight Hewick has been officially scratched from the Randox Grand National, with trainer Shark Hanlon instead targeting the Aintree Bowl two days earlier.

Following his thrilling victory in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day, connections had been planning a huge spring double with both the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the world’s most famous steeplechase on Merseyside in their sights.

However, Hanlon made the difficult decision to withdraw his stable star from last week’s blue riband due to the rain-softened ground and admitted afterwards he was considering switching his focus at Aintree to give him the best opportunity of having another shot at Gold Cup glory next term.

In the Bowl

The County Carlow handler now confirmed that plan, with an appearance in the Bowl potentially set to be followed by an outing in the Punchestown Gold Cup in early May.

“I’m going for the Bowl and then after that it’s quite possible we’ll come back to Punchestown for the Gold Cup there,” said Hanlon.

“I want to go for the Gold Cup next year, so he can go for a National next year, and the Bowl looks the race now as a lot of the horses out of the Bowl have run in the Gold Cup and our lad will be going there fresh.

“What have you going for the Bowl? Paul Nicholls’ horse (Bravemansgame) will probably go again, but he got a hard race in Cheltenham, and you don’t know how Nicky Henderson’s horse (Shishkin) is.

“It’s a £250,000 race, so it’s worth a lot of money, and that’s our aim.”

Hewick’s defection from the Grand National means Gordon Elliott’s Conflated now heads the Aintree field.