Townend bids to be king with Prince
Paul Townend, so often in the shadow of Ruby Walsh, gets his big chance to make headlines of his own tomorrow with the potentially plum ride on Prince De Beauchene in the Crabbie's Grand National at Aintree.
Dual National winner Walsh broke his arm at the Cheltenham Festival, leaving stable number two Townend to take the ride on a horse that has missed the last two runnings through injuries of his own when he would have been a leading contender.
"Touch wood he jumps well at home, he's never run over the National fences before and has missed the last two when it's been his aim," said former Irish champion Townend, who bagged a Grade One prize at the meeting on Boston Bob on Friday, in the same colours of Graham Wylie.
"The trip is a bit of an unknown, but I think he will stay.
"He ran a nice race in the English Hennessy but faded out of it with a big weight, and was running well in the Lexus until he made a mistake.
"He brings a touch of class, has a lovely racing weight and if he gets into a rhythm you never know.
"He's a good horse in his own right and it's nice to have a ride in the race with a nice squeak like he has. I'm hoping to get a nice ride off him."
Owner Robert Waley-Cohen and his jockey-son, Sam, have enjoyed great success over the Aintree fences but it could all pale into insignificance if Long Run wins the first £1million renewal.
Long Run is searching for his own piece of history as no horse as ever won the King George at Kempton, the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the biggest race of them all in Liverpool.
The Nicky Henderson-trained nine-year-old may not be the force of old but there is no doubt he has been given a chance by the handicapper.
"Myself and Sam have enjoyed plenty of luck over the fences in the past, but I still get a tingle ahead of the National as it's a great race," said Robert Waley-Cohen.
"Clearly he has deteriorated since his days of beating Kauto Star and Denman in the Gold Cup, but he has been handicapped accordingly.
"All you can wish for is a clear run and then take it from there."
Henderson is four-handed as he seeks to win the great race for the first time with Hennessy winner Triolo D'Alene, Hunt Ball and Shakalakaboomboom completing his party.
"It's a good little squad to come in with. It's a race that has eluded us, we've had a few close shaves but not for a bit," he said.
"We've not quite had the right kit for it, but this year there are four boys that fit the bill and we're entitled to be here."
Tony McCoy chose Double Seven, trained by Martin Brassil, ahead of Ted Walsh's Colbert Station as his mount for his boss J P McManus.
"Everything seems to have gone well with him and we're happy to be here," said Brassil.
"I just hope they don't get too much rain. The ground is very important to him and if it went heavy there'd be no point in even running him. Hopefully it's no worse than good to soft."
Teaforthree gave connections a huge thrill when third 12 months ago and ran a respectable race in the Gold Cup. His trainer Rebecca Curtis thinks he heads to Aintree in even better shape than last year.
"He took to the Grand National fences last year," said the Newport handler.
"I thought he ran a blinder in the Gold Cup, it was the ideal prep run. We didn't want to go seven weeks after his run at Ascot and I think it put him spot-on.
"I'd have to say I think he's in better form than last year.
Wylie has a second arrow to fire in Tidal Bay, now a 13-year-old, is one of the most popular horses in training and has been given a sporting chance by the handicapper - even though he must shoulder top weight.
"His form off top weight in his last three handicaps has been very good," said trainer Paul Nicholls, who also saddles Rocky Creek and Hawkes Point.
"He is in good shape. I am looking forward to him running. The thing to do is to drop him out and not to rush him."