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Grand National: McCoy and Colbert Station to leave them standing at Aintree

By Frank Brownlow

AP McCoy is Ulster's big hope in today's Grand National at Aintree, a race the champion jockey won on Don't Push It amid emotional scenes in 2010.

McCoy, about to be crowned champion for an incredible 18th successive time but still with just that single National success, yesterday opted to ride Colbert Station in the £975,000 race rather than Sunnyhillboy, both horses owned by JP McManus.

The Co Antrim man had been due to ride Sunnyhillboy in last month's Cheltenham Gold Cup but the horse was withdrawn on the morning of the race, allowing McCoy to switch from the outsider to one of the favourites, Sir Des Champs, eventually finishing second to Fermanagh-bred Bobs Worth.

But McCoy is not the only Ulster jockey in contention in today's showpiece.

Co Down rider Peter Buchanan is on board outsider Mr Moonshine, trained by Sue Smith in Yorkshire.

McCoy admitted he found it tough to choose the Ted Walsh-trained Colbert Station over Sunnyhillboy, who was beaten by the narrowest margin in National history 12 months ago by Neptune Collonges.

The Grand National, sponsored for the final time this year by John Smith's, is arguably the world's most popular horse race, watched by around 600 million viewers in over 140 countries. A maximum of 40 horses are allowed to run


However, with Sunnyhillboy carrying 10lb more this year, McCoy has gone for the potential improver, who marked himself out as a potential National horse when winning the Paddy Power Handicap Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas.

"He's won his last two races while Sunnyhillboy has the experience of being round here and is trained by Jonjo O'Neill, which is the biggest plus there is in staying chases," said McCoy.

"Colbert Station has less weight, he is a bit inexperienced but is a bit more unexposed, too.

"The Paddy Power Chase is not anywhere near as good a race as the Grand National, but it's very competitive in terms of hustle and bustle. With 30 runners it is like a mini-Grand National.

"For a horse that has little jumping experience he has had the experience of a tough competitive chase like that.

"Hopefully he's got a good chance. If Colbert Station doesn't win I hope Sunnyhillboy does.

"He was second last year, he has lots of positives and it was a tough decision.

"It was pretty much my decision in the end. It's always difficult getting off one of Jonjo's horses in these long-distance chases.

"The only thing is that Ted Walsh has a pretty good record in the National as well. That was a plus point."

Walsh also runs Seabass, third last year and once again partnered by his daughter, Katie.

Sunnyhillboy will again be ridden by Richie McLernon, who is hoping for another brilliant ride.

He said: "I'll go out with the same mentality as last year and do the exact same thing. He didn't deserve to get beat and hopefully we'll go one better."

Favourite is Willie Mullins' On His Own, ridden by Ruby Walsh.

Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson owns two of the runners, What A Friend and Harry The Viking.

Belfast Telegraph


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