Paul Townend will be on board I Am Maximus and Mark Walsh has opted to partner Limerick Lace after owner JP McManus finalised riding plans for his five-strong team in Saturday’s Randox Grand National.

The celebrated owner has enjoyed two famous victories in the world’s greatest steeplechase, memorably providing AP McCoy with an elusive first success aboard Don’t Push It in 2010 before the historic triumph of the Rachael Blackmore-ridden Minella Times three years ago.

McManus is set to be well represented once more at Aintree this weekend, with Irish Grand National hero I Am Maximus and his Willie Mullins-trained stablemate Meetingofthewaters his two shortest-priced runners.

William Hill on Tuesday suggested the latter, third in the Ultima at the Cheltenham Festival last month, could even go off favourite following a “massive gamble”, but with Townend in the saddle on I Am Maximus, the owner’s retained rider in Ireland, Mark Walsh, has interestingly sided with Gavin Cromwell’s Mares’ Chase heroine Limerick Lace.

Star squad

Confirming riding arrangements, McManus’ racing manager Frank Berry said: “Paul is on I Am Maximus, Mark is on Limerick Lace and Danny (Mullins) is on Meetingofthewaters.

“Mark has never ridden I Am Maximus, so Paul will ride him. Mark had a difficult decision to make as he liked Meetingofthewaters at Cheltenham as well. It was a difficult decision, but he’s gone with the mare anyway, so he’s hoping she’ll get the trip.”

Berry said Keith Donoghue had been booked to ride Cotswold Chase winner Capodanno, while Jody McGarvey will do the steering on Janidil.

He added: “They’re all going there in good form, they’ll need a bit of luck in running on the day in the National as everyone knows, but hopefully they’ll give a good account.”

Hills make last year’s winner Corach Rambler their 9/2 favourite, with I Am Maximus 7/1 and Meetingofthewaters only a point behind at 8/1 after being cut from 10s.

Spokesperson Lee Phelps said: “The money started coming in for Meetingofthewaters last week and it has not stopped. Make no mistake, this is a massive gamble, and we’ve been forced to take more preventative action, cutting Willie Mullins’ runner to 8/1 from 10/1, having been as big as 14/1 less than a week ago.

“Most people would have expected last year’s winner Corach Rambler to go off favourite, but if this gamble continues at its current rate we think there’s a good chance Meetingofthewaters could be favourite come Saturday race-time.”

Almost certain

The well-fancied Kitty’s Light, a 14/1 shot with the same firm, appears almost certain to make the cut after Gordon Elliott revealed top-weight Conflated will instead run in the Melling Chase on Friday.

Conflated was one of 13 Elliott-trained horses still in contention for the event following the confirmation stage on Monday, but owners Gigginstown House Stud later said the prospect of running under 11st 12lb on testing ground over four and a quarter miles was a major concern.

The 10-year-old was also entered for Thursday’s Aintree Bowl over three miles and a furlong, but was not declared on Tuesday morning and is instead set to run over two and a half miles the following day.

“We had the option of the Aintree Bowl and the Grand National, but with the ground going the way it is we are going to run in the Melling Chase on Friday instead,” Elliott said in a stable tour for

“I thought he ran great in the Ryanair Chase (at Cheltenham, finished third), he hit the line well and I was very happy with his run.”

Weight changes

Conflated’s anticipated defection means all six horses with an allotted weight of 10st 6lb are now set to get into the final field of 34.

As Glengouly, Galia Des Liteaux and Panda Boy are rated 146, all three were already guaranteed a starting berth, but the same could not be said of Eklat De Rire, Chambard and Kitty’s Light.

As that trio have all been dropped 1lb to an official rating of 145 since the weights were unveiled in February, connections faced an anxious wait and a potential random ballot to decide which two of the three would creep in at the bottom if none of the horses above them were taken out.

Christian Williams, trainer of last year’s Scottish Grand National and bet365 Gold Cup hero Kitty’s Light, admitted to being relieved that barring a late change of mind from Elliott, that will no longer be the case.

He said: “It’s great that he’ll get in now, it’s good for the owners. The whole season has been geared towards the Grand National so it’s great that we’ve got in.

“The owners have been looking at it for the last three weeks and had everything upside down. They’ve been thinking about it for the last three weeks and I just stayed out of it.

“I think Gordon declared Conflated for the Bowl this morning, so one of the owners rang me and said ‘brilliant Chris, we’re in’, then Gordon took him back out! Anyway, it sounds like he’s running on Friday hopefully.”

Of Kitty’s Light, he added: “He’s flying, it’s just a shame with the ground because when we had him in a good place last year the ground was good and it looks like it will be heavy on Saturday.

“He might still have won the Scottish National last year if it was soft, you don’t really know do you? You can’t discount him on the ground until he actually goes out there as when we’ve run him on that sort of ground before we didn’t have him in the best of form and it wouldn’t have been his ideal trip.

“When he’s had his ideal trip it’s been in the spring and that’s when the ground has been good. We’ll see how he runs on heavy ground in the spring – there’s only one way to find out.”