herald

Wednesday 7 December 2016

Katie Walsh: National to be test of stamina

Ballycasey and Paul Townend win the 2m 4f Chase Gowran Park Photo: Patrick McCann / Racing Post
Ballycasey and Paul Townend win the 2m 4f Chase Gowran Park Photo: Patrick McCann / Racing Post

Aintree is a very special and unique meeting and the Grand National is a race that gathers interest from all over the world and so many people tune in, so I was thrilled to find out yesterday morning that I would be a part of it all again when Willie asked me to ride Ballycasey.

There's 40 runners, the fences are different, the test of both horse and jockey are like nothing else we have from one end of the year to the other and people just really enjoy watching the spectacle and probably, to an extent, the lottery that is associated with it.

In any horse race you need luck, but in the Grand National you need a lot of it. With so many runners, there is obviously more traffic, it's over four miles, and there's often loose horses to contend with as well so hopefully we can get clear round and take it from there.

We are due another drop of rain and after riding on the National course yesterday I could see us having proper slow ground for the National tomorrow.

I don't think it will turn heavy but I do think it will be a test of stamina and I don't think you'll have to be as handy in the field. It wouldn't surprise me if something came out of the pack late on in the race.

I had some great days around here on Seabass and I'm very fortunate to have another opportunity on Ballycasey.

Ruby rode him in the race last year and he got brought down by another horse but it was too early to say how he was or wasn't going that day but he certainly hadn't done anything wrong up until his exit.

This year Ruby has opted to ride Sir Des Champs which probably surprised a few people but I'd say with the ground the way it is he just thought he might have the best chance of Willie's.

At the end of the day he was second in a Gold Cup and is a classy horse on his best form and nowadays it takes a horse with class to win a Grand National. On his best form he'd look very well handicapped.

Many Clouds is a class horse too though and I think whatever beats him is going to win. It was an afterthought to run him in this race last year after the Gold Cup and he won it whereas everything this season has been planned around getting him back and he was class around Kelso the last day.

Oliver Sherwood seems very happy with him and I think there's no doubt he's the horse everyone would love to ride in it.

My horse in the Fox Hunters' yesterday, Current Exchange, gave me a great spin to finish fourth. He's nearly as old as I am and has loads of experience but just got in underneath the second last a bit and that didn't help.

Flatter

On The Fringe proved once again just how good he is and maybe that he's even better on a flatter track like Aintree and you could see how much it meant to Jamie Codd from the moment he passed the line.

It was a huge pity for Nina who was suspended but she has won it before and she know's how much it'll mean to Jamie. He was celebrating like it was his first winner and that's what it should mean to any amateur to ride a winner over those fences.

With Cheltenham and Aintree being so close you'll always get funny results but Annie Power and Cue Card were exceptional and it would be great if they turned up at Punchestown later in the month.

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