Katie Walsh: My Aintree Grand National Festival preview
The Betway ambassador looks ahead to all three days at Aintree, including her thoughts on the Topham, the Betway Bowl and, of course, the Grand National.
I’m really looking forward to Aintree.
It’s got a different atmosphere to Cheltenham and although it doesn’t have quite the same build up with there being only three weeks between the two, don’t take away anything from the meeting itself.
It’s equally important in terms of top-class racing and the prize money is phenomenal. The Grand National is obviously the race everyone knows about, but there are a number of other fantastic races which mean it promises to be a great three days.
Aintree is a special place and we as a family are very fortunate to have some fantastic memories of it from over the years. Seabass came third for Dad and I in 2012 and of course Ruby and Dad won with Papillon in 2000.
The beauty of the National itself is that anyone can win it. There are no real instructions, it’s just best of luck and enjoy it!
Every jockey and every trainer lining up harbours some hope that they are in with a chance and that’s what makes it such an incredible event.
You don’t have to be Gordon Elliott, Willie Mullins or Nicky Henderson, you can be Ted Walsh or Jimmy Mangan and that’s why it holds such a special place for everybody because every yard can have a National horse.
Tiger Roll the one to beat
Despite his price, I find it very difficult to get away from Tiger Roll .
He’s very solid and, with the way he won at both Navan and Cheltenham, I think he’s a better horse this year than last if anything. You obviously need plenty of luck, but I’d say if you asked any jockey, the one they’d like to be on, it would be him.
He’s the rightful favourite and he’s the one I’d choose to ride.
Nothing is confirmed yet, but it looks as if Ruby will choose to ride Rathvinden who probably looks the pick of the Mullins pack. He won a Bobbyjo and the four miler at Cheltenham, so he’s definitely going to stay the trip and he’s shown he has the class too.
His recent form is better than Pleasant Company, but that isn’t to say that Pleasant Company won’t back up the form from last year. With another stride, he would have won it and he’s a fantastic jumper which you need to be.
Anibale Fly is another who must have a great chance. He was staying on in the Gold Cup and Neptune Collonges won it off top-weight.
Pairofbrowneyes was good in the Leinster National the last day as well, so whatever way you look at it, it’s wide open. That’s what makes it such a fascinating race and being the National that’s exactly the way it should be.
Call It Magic in the Topham
Call It Magic ran really well in the Becher in December over a trip which probably stretched him. He’s back down to 2m5f in the Topham and by all accounts that’s his ideal trip.
The ground should suit and he’s got a lovely weight on his back too, so we’re hoping he goes well.
Not all horses run as well over the National fences for the second time, but I don’t see that being a problem for him. He’s a super jumper and he seemed to come alive over the big fences last time.
He’s in great form and Ross is happy with him. It would be a dream come true if he were to get his head in front.
Betway Aintree Hurdle
It was unfortunate that Buveur D’Air fell at Cheltenham, we’ll never know what would have happened and if he would have been good enough to beat Espoir D’Allen who was very impressive. If feeling no ill effects from that, you’d expect him to be bang there.
He’s definitely the one to beat, but it’s a competitive race with Melon and Faugheen in there.
Melon ran well at Cheltenham and Faugheen was going well for a long way in the Stayers’, but with Nicky Henderson’s horses in good form, I think Buveur D’Air will redeem himself.
I’d be pretty keen on Kemboy here. We didn’t learn anything about him at Cheltenham with him falling at the first, but if anything I think Aintree will suit him better anyway.
It happens very fast there, with the fences coming up so quickly, so I think his speed will come to the fore.
He comes here a fresh horse, while the others had hard enough races at Cheltenham and for me, he’s the quality beast in the race.
Apple’s Jade didn’t run up to the sort of level we know she can at Cheltenham, but she scoped dirty and Gordon Elliott wouldn’t be running her here unless she was 100%.
She was very impressive the last time she ran at Aintree and if she were to redeem herself, it would be great for connections.
You’d have to think Burning Ambition would have a great chance. I think he’ll really like the track and trip should be to his liking as well.
Gordon looks to have a pretty strong hand in the race, with Kruzhlinin another who would go well.
He’s a classy horse and has been winning regularly on the Irish point-to-point circuit. He’s a bigger price than Ucello Conti who ran at Cheltenham, so he’d be the one for me.
Dad runs a nice horse called Dewcup in the bumper on Friday (17:15). He won well at Thurles the last day and will appreciate some better ground.
He gets the allowances for being a four-year-old and it would be great if he could run well, with his owner having a close affiliation with Aintree.
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