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Go for Pleasant Company to be very good friend to the punters

Willie Mullins
Willie Mullins

By Ron McKnight

Pleasant Company gets the vote to go one better and claim the Grand National to give Irish champion trainer Willie Mullins a Gold Cup-National double.

The selection was denied a head by the winner last year Tiger Roll who bids for a repeat being one of a record 11 runners representing trainer Gordon Elliott in the race.

Tiger Roll has already achieved a remarkable record, winning four times at the Cheltenham Festival before adding the Aintree spectacular to his CV. The little horse has the added burden of the weights having risen in his bid to repeat the feat of Red Rum in the 1970s, recording back-to-back victories.

Rathvinden is Ruby Walsh's pick of the Mullins trio and started his career with Cullybackey trainer Ian Ferguson, winning a Downpatrick bumper in 2013 before being sent to the champion trainer.

Rathvinden has the perfect credentials for the £1million feature - sponsored by Crumlin-based Randox Health - having won the four-mile National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival last year and landed the Bobby Jo Chase at Fairyhouse on his latest start, the race a springboard to National success.

The horse is owned by Airdrie-based Ronnie Bartlett, a major supporter of horseracing in Ulster.

Step Back, trained by Mark Bradstock who won the Gold Cup with Coneygree, is another with major local connections. The trainer's wife Sara said: "We bought the horse from a man in Northern Ireland who had done some showjumping and taught him to jump very well."

That man was George Stewart, a former international showjumper prior to turning his attention to training at his Lisburn base and he has already educated a previous Grand National winner in Bindaree, successful in the 2002 renewal.

Stewart said: "He was always a clever and intelligent horse that jumped very well."

Mcknight'S NATIONAL SELECTION: 1 Pleasant Company; 2 Step Back; 3 Rathvinden; 4 Tiger Roll

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