But I’ll be on the side-line looking in with real interest. It’s a terrific race to be involved in, with the buzz, the size of the field, the crowd, and all the preliminaries. And then, finally, when it all gets underway, there’s that famous/infamous charge to the first fence – that’s a great thrill in itself.
If you’re on an ordinary one whose appetite for the challenge is not what it might be – and I’ve been on a number of them through the years – it’s a different matter altogether.
But when you’re on one that takes to the place, gets into that jumping rhythm you need in this race, it’s something else altogether, and I’ve been fortunate enough to win the race twice – on Papillon, for Dad, in 2000, and Hedgehunter, for Willie, in 2005.
I should have been partnering Sir Des Champs this afternoon, but Nina Carberry has been called in to take ride. He would have a chance if able to rediscover the form he showed two years ago, when runner-up in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. It’s a big ask, but he’s in good form at home, should jump and stay, and he’s on the right side of 11 stone, and you never know what can happen in a Grand National. He has an each-way chance.
Of the remainder, I think Kruzhlinin has strong claims, and Gilgamboa and Pendra should go well at very big prices.
As well as Sir Des Champs in the big one, I’m missing out on a great book of rides, which includes Cheltenham Festival winners Yorkhill and Douvan.
I should have been starting off on Children’s List in the three-mile handicap hurdle, but he was very disappointing in the Martin Pipe Hurdle at Cheltenham and I don’t know why.
This trip shouldn’t be a problem, but he won’t appreciate any cut in the ground.
Yorkhill will be a short price to take the two-and-a-half-mile novice hurdle after his impressive win in the Neptune at Cheltenham. He looked a helluva horse that day, has come out of the race well, and I hope he again shows how good he is. He’s a very exciting prospect. Willie’s other runner, Bello Conti, was fourth in the Neptune and has improved since – hopefully enough to chase Yorkhill home.
Douvan came out of the Arkle well and the ground and the track will be no problem to him in the Maghull Novice Chase. He has beaten most of these before, while the presence of Alisier D’Irlande should ensure a good gallop, and possibly a good lead for him. You can take nothing for granted in this game, but we’ve been very happy with him since Cheltenham, and hopefully he will extend his perfect record over fences.
It’s impossible to oppose World Hurdle winner Thistlecrack in the Stayers’ Hurdle, but Shaneshill was not far behind him when they were second and third behind Killultagh Vic at Punchestown last year.
Our horse ran a superb race when second in the RSA Chase at Cheltenham, and is dropping back over hurdles for this race. But there’s a small field today, it’s a big pot, and if he could finish second to Thistlecrack it would be a great effort.
I was supposed to travel to Tramore for one ride tomorrow: Tennis Cap in the listed chase. He has Galway Plate winner Shanahan’s Turn to beat, but I think the step up to three miles for the first time will suit. He’s in good form and, while he has something to find on ratings with Henry De Bromhead’s horse, hopefully he will go very close.