Rebel-rouser Walsh chases grand slam

Ruby Walsh has described the prospect of a clean sweep in the season’s four major Nationals as “unbelievable” just 24 hours before partnering leading chance Cornish Rebel at Ayr.

Ruby Walsh has described the prospect of a clean sweep in the season’s four major Nationals as “unbelievable” just 24 hours before partnering leading chance Cornish Rebel at Ayr.

The Irishman is set to ride the six-year-old for Paul Nicholls in the Gala Casinos Daily Record Scottish Grand National, seven days after sailing home on Hedgehunter to capture the main event at Aintree.

That was in addition to winning the Irish equivalent at Easter on Numbersixvalverde and partnering Silver Birch to victory in the Welsh National over Christmas.

“It would be brilliant to win tomorrow,” said Walsh. “To win one National is great, but to win four would be unbelievable.”

Walsh’s mount has unproven stamina, but has the form in the book to run a big race after finishing third in the Royal & SunAlliance Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.

“He should be all right on the ground,” added Walsh. “If it had been softer it would have slowed the race down for him, but we have to make do with what we have got.

“It is a very strong field and we are hoping for a big run. There is one horse out of the weights that has won over four miles – Another Rum – and I could see him running a big race.”

Nicholls also saddles Sky Bet (Great Yorkshire) Chase winner Colourful Life in tomorrow’s four-mile-one furlong contest, with Joe Tizzard taking the ride.

The Ditcheat trainer’s assistant Daniel Skelton said: “He loves this good ground and a flat, left-handed track.

“Paul has always said there are two races for Colourful Life, the Great Yorkshire and the Scottish National. He has won one and is aiming for the next.”

Victory in the Scottish National would be a big boost for Nicholls in his bid for land the trainers’ championship, but his arch rival Martin Pipe is set to field four runners headed by Comply Or Die.

The six-year-old looked to be held by Cornish Rebel when taking a crashing fall in a Grade Two event at Newbury in November, but finished three lengths ahead of his rival in the SunAlliance.

Pipe also runs 2003 runner-up Stormez in addition to Iris Bleu and Control Man, with Paddy Power offering 7-2 that he will train the winner. Nicholls is a 9-2 chance and a Scottish-trained winner 10-1.

The Bajan Bandit is set to have his first run over fences since being pulled up in the 2003 Royal & SunAlliance Chase, and trainer Len Lungo is praying that the heavens open.

“He wouldn’t be running unless there is rain,” he said. “We’d love to run in the Scottish National, but I am not going to risk him as he has been a great horse to me.

“I wouldn’t have run him today – the straight is too firm – but there is a a chance of rain.

“We are happy with him though. He’s schooled twice over fences this week with a visor on and that has gone well.”

Connections of Joes Edge are hopeful their smart novice will see out the marathon trip following his comprehensive victory at Aintree last weekend.

Ferdy Murphy’s eight-year-old put a disappointing Cheltenham Festival effort behind him when romping home on Grand National day, and Murphy’s son and assistant Paul said: “He did nothing wrong at Aintree and is in with a good weight (10st)

“The ground will be all right for him, but the distance is unknown territory. He’s bred to stay, but we will just have to wait and see.

“He made a blunder at Cheltenham but a lot of horses made a blunder at Cheltenham this year with the fast ground, and he was fantastic at Aintree.

“We couldn’t have been happier with his jumping and the way he finished.”

Joes Edge beat the prolific winner Schuh Shine by two-and-a-half lengths at Liverpool, having chased home the likes of Control Man, Baron Windrush and Lacdoudal earlier in the season.

And he will have the stable’s promising young conditional Keith Mercer aboard for the first time tomorrow.

Another looking for rain is Greystoke handler Nicky Richards, who is concerned about the drying ground ahead of Lord Jack’s bid to carry Trevor Hemmings’ colours to victory.

Following Hedgehunter’s 14-length romp at Aintree last weekend, Hemmings will be hoping the nine-year-old can capture further National glory despite the forecast of good underfoot conditions.

“I just hope it is not too dry for him. We may just have to have a little think about running him,” said Richards.

“He is slightly wrong at the weights, but Mr Hemmings has had a good few days with his big win at Aintree and if the ground is right he wants to give it a go, as he is a sporting man.”

After notching a double at Ayr and Kelso earlier in the season, Lord Jack was pulled up in the Welsh National before finishing an encouraging fourth in a three-mile chase at Newbury earlier this month.

“He took a little bit of time to get over the Welsh National, but he ran a nice race at Newbury and seems in good old form,” added Richards.

Supreme Glory is a specialist in staying chases and Pat Murphy is hoping his 12-year-old, who has only raced twice since finishing runner-up to Monty’s Pass in the 2003 National, can put his proven big-race stamina to good use.

“He is one of the horses who is guaranteed to get the trip. He finished third in this race four years ago as a novice, has won a Welsh National and finished second at Aintree, so he has proved he stays,” Murphy said.

“He hasn’t run since Christmas as we had a virus in the yard and we ran out of time to get a run into him, but I have no worries with that as he is an easy horse to get fit and he runs well fresh.

“The horse is in great shape, but it is just a shame that the weights haven’t gone up with Take The Stand running, and it is going to be hard work for him from 11lb out of the handicap.”

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