Larne trainer Stuart Crawford is drawing inspiration from Hurricane Fly’s brilliant Champion Hurdle success ahead of Killyglen’s tilt at the Grand National tomorrow.
Ulster-owned Hurricane Fly stormed through to take one of the Cheltenham Festival’s most sought-after prizes — the Champion Hurdle — last month, and Crawford is confident Killyglen can make a real impact in arguably the world’s greatest race.
“Not too many northern owned or trained horses have featured in the big races at Cheltenham or Aintree,” admitted Crawford.
“But Hurricane Fly did the business at Cheltenham this year, as did Zemsky — northern owned and trained.
“Killyglen is the only Northern Ireland-trained horse in the Grand National so that should create a bit of interest at home. So hopefully he will go well.
“He goes there with a good chance. Obviously he will not be one of the shorter fancies but I am happy with the horse I am taking.”
Killyglen already boasts a victory at the Aintree Grand National meeting, winning the Mildmay Novice Chase in 2009.
“Hopefully he will remember that day and do something similar,” said Crawford.
“The atmosphere will not be an issue for this horse. He has plenty of experience of the big festivals — Cheltenham and Aintree.
“He’s a laid back type and the big occasion usually brings out the best in him.
“I’m looking forward to it and can’t wait for Saturday to come around.
“Everyone has their own fancies in the race but I don’t look too much at what Killyglen will be up against. I mind my own end of things and in a race like this that’s all you can really do.
“I don’t worry too much about the other horses. If you can jump round you are not going to be far away.
“The horse is in good form. I expect him to go and jump well.
“If you do that you are going to have as good a chance as anyone regardless of what price you are. At the end of the day the horse doesn’t know what price he is.
“There are 40 runners and it is a wee bit of a lottery and you need a bit of luck.
“The race appeals to people outside racing as well as those interested in racing. Everyone takes an interest in it.
“I’ve always aspired to having a horse with a competitive chance in the Grand National.
“So it’s going to be a highlight of my career so far. If we can get a good result, all the better.
“There will be a lot of horses fall by the wayside — fancied horses, those with experience.
“It’s a funny race — a high class handicap but the form book goes out the window a wee bit,” he added.
Crawford has kept preparations low-key in the build-up to the big race and Killyglen is making the journey to Liverpool today via a ferry crossing to Scotland followed by a road trip.
“It’s just been a normal week really. Killyglen has done his usual week’s work, nothing out of the ordinary,” he said.
“The horse is well used to travelling so that’s not too big an ordeal.
“A couple of hours on the ferry then four or five hours down the road. It’s not something I’m worried about — the horse is a good traveller.
“Then it’s all systems go on Saturday,” said Crawford, who is very pleased to have secured the services of jockey Robbie Power, winner of the Grand National on board Silver Birch in 2007.
“I am delighted to get him. He is a good rider with plenty of experience,” he said.
“If the forecast is right the weather should suit us well. We want it to be as dry as possible and quick going.
“We definitely wouldn’t want any rain.
“Killyglen is owned by David McCammon. David will be there on Saturday — he wouldn’t miss it! Killyglen is where the owner lives — it is a townland in Larne.”
And Crawford doesn’t see the big threat to Killyglen coming from Tony McCoy and Don’t Push It, winners last year.
He added: “Not too many horses — or jockeys — win back-to-back Grand Nationals.
“I’m confident Killyglen can do well.”