The Ruby Walsh column: Bristol De Mai holds key to the Grand National

By Ruby Walsh
Tue 26 Mar 2019

Racing TV ambassador Ruby Walsh looks ahead to the big race at Aintree on Saturday week and gives his verdict on the potential clash between Altior and Cyrname at the meeting.

To my mind the Randox Health Grand National on Saturday week revolves around whether or not Bristol De Mai runs or not.

He’s top weight at present and if he lines up I think it gives Tiger Roll a massive chance of repeating his win of last year carrying 11st 1lb.

But if Bristol De Mai comes out, that would mean the weights rising at least 4lb and who know what connections of Anibale Fly, who is next in the weights, would do?

 Pairofbrowneyes is well-in at the weights and one of five potential Grand national runners for Willie Mullins
Pairofbrowneyes is well-in at the weights and one of five potential Grand national runners for Willie Mullins

The weights might creep up and the more you put on a small horse like Tiger Roll, the better chance it gives the rest of us of beating him.

No horse has won back-to-back Nationals since Red Rum in the 1970s but I won on Hedgehunter in 2005 and finished second on him 12 months later after finishing runner-up on him in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in between.

Unfortunately, when he went back to Aintree seeking a repeat win it rained overnight and the ground got a bit slow. Numbersixvalverde beat him but Hedgehunter had 11st 12lb on his back and was trying to concede 18lb to the winner.

If Tiger Roll has 11st 1lb to carry, he will be hard to beat, but so much revolves Bristol De Mai’s participation.

We have plenty of chances with Pleasant Company, Rathvinden, Up For Review, Livelovelaugh and Pairofbrowneyes.

They all worked this morning but I don’t know if it’s Willie’s intention to run them all of them in the English National or maybe keep some for the Irish National.

All five would go to Aintree with their chance.

Pleasant Company was beaten a head by Tiger Roll last year; Rathvinden won the Bobbyjo Chase well last time; Up For Review was a bit disappointing in Cheltenham where he was a bit keen; Livelovelaugh is down near the bottom of the weights and could run well if he snuck in; and Pairofbrowneyes, who won the Leinster National last time, is in theory 10lb well-in.

The English National is a unique race. There are 40 runners and you can generally make a case for them all.

You can go out there thinking you are riding an absolute good thing and then be behind the wrong one at the first and the race is over for you, but that’s the beauty of it.

Altior v Cyrname

 Cyrname is officially rated superior to Altior (Focusonracing)
Cyrname is officially rated superior to Altior (Focusonracing)

Altior and Cyrname seem on course to meet over two and a half miles in the Melling Chase at Aintree next week.

It will be a great race to watch with the handicapper having Cyrname 3lb above Altior.

I think Cryname’s style of racing will really suit Altior as it will give the latter something to aim at.

In the Champion Chase, Altior was left in front at the top of the hill and everyone was queuing up behind to have a go at him. That style of race does not suit Altior.

He’s much better aiming at horses and the way Crname goes hard from the front will play to his strengths.

It will make life easier for Nico de Boinville – he knows Harry Cobden will let Cyrname stride along and he will have one horse to aim at. It will make for fascinating viewing.

Sprint sharpener

I rode in a six-furlong maiden at Naas on Sunday, finishing third on my Dad’s horse, Castletownshend, who had 10st 4lb to carry.

He ran well and has gone up from 73 to 78 in the ratings.

I thought a furlong down I might catch Kevin Manning on Western Dawn but Jim Bolger’s horses were in unbelievable order and he pulled away from me.

It was a good performance from the winner – he stuck at it really well and could be one to follow when going up in trip.

Riding in a sprint on the Flat is a whole different ball game to over jumps.

You’ve so little time to make a decision and whatever decision you take you are committed to – you can’t change you mind.

Things are happening much faster but it is good for you mentally. It certainly sharpens you up.

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