Mullins has no grounds for concern

NATIONAL favourite Hedgehunter will travel to Aintree today, with his trainer Willie Mullins satisfied about the ground conditions at Liverpool.

After falling at the final fence last year when still in contention, the nine-year-old is now as low as 7-1 for the world’s greatest steeplechase, in which he will be ridden by Ruby Walsh.

“He will travel over later this evening or tomorrow - we will just see what the weather is like,” said Mullins.

“I’d be happy with the ground the way it is for him but really, it is a case of the softer the ground the better as we know that he can go on reasonably soft ground.”

Following early morning rain and showers yesterday afternoon the going on the National course has changed to good to soft, good in places.

Clerk of the course Andrew Tulloch said: “It is lovely ground, but we had 4.6 millimetres of rain overnight and another 0.5 this afternoon so it has definitely eased.

“Friday will be a mixture of sunshine and showers, but temperatures are expected to rise to 11 degrees or 12 on Saturday, which looks like being mainly dry.”

Meanwhile, Carrie Ford will have some expert advice before she embarks on her historic bid to become the first woman to ride the winner of the big race.

Mrs Ford partners leading fancy Forest Gunner for her husband Richard but beforehand she will walk the course with Neale Doughty, who rode Hallo Dandy to victory in 1984.

“I’m going to meet Neale at the track tomorrow and have a walk round with him,” said Mrs Ford.

“He said it’s best to walk it early and then have a couple of days to let what he tells me sink. Then just go to Aintree on Saturday but don’t go near the track, go in the weighing room and just concentrate and keep focused.”

Mrs Ford said she felt “inwardly fairly calm” ahead of the race.

“My nerves aren’t bad. I’m getting a little bit nervous now but it is the Grand National and if you can’t get fired up for that you’d struggle to get wound up for anything,” she added.

“We’ve tried to enjoy the build up because it is rather special to be part of the big race. Come Saturday it could go really well or I could be on the floor at the first.”

Too much rain would, however, be a worry to the Fords.

“Forest Gunner has won on soft ground but it would be a little bit more of a concern if it came up soft,” Mrs Ford said.

Graham Lee has also expressed his concerns over the possibility of conditions becoming testing ahead of his bid to win another National on Amberleigh House.

The Irishman teamed up with Ginger McCain’s charge to record a famous victory 12 months ago and he will renew his association with the 13-year-old at the weekend.

“The rain is worrying me a little bit because he’s only a pony and measures just 15.2 (hands) on the stick. But I wouldn’t swap him for the world. He’s been around there and done it - I wouldn’t swap him,” he said.

Timmy Murphy believes It Takes Time has the class to give him a good ride. The Martin Pipe-trained 11-year-old won a Grade One contest at Lingfield in February and is set to carry 10st 11lb.

“He looks to have a nice sort of weight,” said Murphy. “He hasn’t run over the fences before but he schooled well over them during the week. I just think he’s a classy type of horse and I think you need that nowadays.

“His best run this season was probably at Lingfield against Ollie Magern.

“He had some cracking form over hurdles against Baracouda, Crystal D’Ainay and some other really good hurdlers. Hopefully he can transfer some of that form because he is a pretty classy individual.”

Ladbrokes bet: 8-1 Hedgehunter, 9-1 Amberleigh House, 10-1 Clan Royal, Forest Gunner, Strong Resolve, 16-1 Colnel Rayburn, Joly Bey, Longshanks, Take The Stand, 20-1 Innox, It Takes Time, Just In Debt, Lord Atterbury, Nil Desperandum, 25-1 Bindaree, Double Honour, Le Coudray, Marcus Du Berlais, Monty’s Pass, 28-1 Royal Auclair, Spot Thedifference, 33-1 bar.

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