JUST A Par and Highland Lodge are both set to go forward to the next stage ahead of the first scratchings deadline for this year’s Grand National, trainer James Moffatt has confirmed.

The two Pit Farm Stables inmates were ranked 77th and 100th respectively when the weights were revealed last Tuesday and both are set to stand their ground when the first withdrawals are confirmed on February 26.

Cartmel-based handler Moffatt admits Highland Lodge is more likely to run in the Topham Chase at Aintree the day before due to his low ranking, but is more optimistic for Just A Par’s prospects of being among the 40 to contests this year’s National.

“They’ll definitely both be standing their ground,” said Moffatt, adding: “Realistically, Highland Lodge’s target will be the Topham Chase the day before.

“That’s a 24-hour declaration and the Grand National is a 48-hour declaration, so he’ll be declared for both races and if he happens to get in the National then that’s the race he’d been going for.

“Historically, the horses in the pool from 72 to 80 all got in last year, so we hold out plenty of hope for Just A Par to sneak in. I think it will be down to five or six horses within there because that’s what it’s been for the last few years.

“He’s on the cusp of getting in for sure. Clearly, things are going to have to change with Highland Lodge for him to get in, but they’ll both hold their ground and we’ll see what happens.”

Highland Lodge has come to be regarded as something of an Aintree course specialist and although his previous attempt at the Grand National saw him pulled up in unusually warm weather, Moffatt is excited at the prospect of the 13-year-old running on Merseyside again.

“He’s had very little racing, he’s a real one-trick pony with the National fences and he comes back every year, so it will be a thrill to see him running again in April in the Topham or the Grand National,” said Moffatt.

“He didn’t really get home the year he ran in the Grand National, but it was a very hot day on good ground and there was a lot of pace in it, so softer ground would help him certainly.”

Meanwhile, Moffatt has been encouraged by the words of Just A Par’s former trainer Paul Nicholls after his first run under him in the Becher Chase at Aintree last December.

“Paul said he thought the best race he ran over the National fences was when he ran for us after 18 months and finished seventh in the Becher,” said Moffatt.

“Our aim is to try to aim for the top 10 and be positive, and I think it’s realistic.”