Bet on My Will Horse in the Grand National Jockey Ruby Walsh

My Will to impose himself in John Smith’s Grand National.

RUBY WALSH risks being banished from the family’s Sunday lunch after he turned down the opportunity to renew his partnership with father Ted in his quest to land the sport’s greatest prize for the third time.

Blood is undoubtedly thicker than water but the lure of an added £900,000 prize has persuaded Walsh that pragmatism triumphs over sentiment in rejecting his father’s Southern Vic in preference for market leader, My Will, trained by his principal employer Paul Nicholls.

No doubt it must have been a difficult choice for 30-year-old Walsh, who shone as leading rider at the recent Cheltenham festival. Not many will have forgotten the emotional scenes when the combination teamed up nine years ago with Papillon to land their virgin successes.

Ostensibly, it seems a sensible decision by Walsh, also successful on Hedgehunter, for Willie Mullins, in 2005. Southern Vic has a decided preference for soft ground and, although I’m not as qualified as Michael Fish, my ability to listen to the weather forecast suggests that the conditions will be on the fast side of good come Saturday at Aintree.

My Will, prepared in an unorthodox way by Nicholls, has a touch of class. He has finished third in the 2006 and 2007 Betfred Gold Cup at Sandown ( I still consider it the Whitbread) before a tendon injury curtailed his career for 19 months. An excellent comeback run in the ultra-competitive Hennessey preceded a superb fifth in the Cheltenham Gold Cup behind superior stable companions.

It was encouraging in the wake of Kauto Star’s stunning success that Nicholls, probably regretfully now, let slip that My Will had run a superb National trial. His price has been in freefall since. The horse is certainly the right age, Comply and Die, Hedgehunter, Papillon, Bobbyjo and Lord Gyllene, all successful in the last 11 years, were all aged nine.

Additionally, My Will travels well, handles fast ground with aplomb and, save a distant first fence fall at Sandown, is normally a sound jumper – some of the most vital ingredients for the National pie. Another, Lady Luck, is more difficult to find.

Those who believe in omens will be on My Will in droves. There have been four winning favourites since 1996 and all returned at 7-1 – the current price of the favourite.

Comply and Die, best-priced 20-1 with Corals and Hills, is trying to emulate the legendary Red Rum and become the first horse in 35 years to win back-to-back Nationals. It’s fair to say the 10-year-old’s preparation has been geared around a repeat. Running on unsuitable ground, the unnecessary applications of blinkers and strange tactics have resulted in some inconsistent performances.

David Pipe’s gelding justified substantial support last term – over £500,000 was staked on the day – and the vibes from Pond House suggest a repeat performance wouldn’t be the greatest surprise. The handicapper has certainly given him every opportunity. Comply and Die, one of the easiest winners of the last decade, carries just 11lb more.

There will be plenty of support for Butlers Cabin, travelling well last year until falling at Beeches second time, to give Tony McCoy his first success in the event. Trainer Jonjo O’Neil feels he’s got him cherry-ripe – his four runs this term have needed radar to spot him – and the drying surface will be no deterrent. You can get 10-1 with the majority of firms if he is your pick; a definite player.

The lumbering Rambling Minster gives the impression he could run all day. Keith Reveley’s 11-year-old ploughed through the mud to land the Blue Square Gold Cup at Haydock. However, unlike most of the other market leaders, the likely persistent presence of the sun is a hindrance rather than a help. Rambling Minster was pulled up on his only encounter with a surface faster than good. Rain dances will be needed.

Outsiders do have a decent record in the event. Those who like the idea of a tidy windfall for little outlay will be buoyed by the success of Last Suspect (1985) at 50-1 – the largest –priced scorer in the previous 40 runnings.

Red Marauder (2001) and Silver Birch two years ago have rewarded backers at 33-1 in this new Millennium. Two to consider from the basement bargains are Cornish Sett (33-1 general), trained like the favourites by Paul Nicholls, and last year’s third Snowy Morning (33-1 William Hill).

Cornish Sett became increasing errant after a disappointing 12th last season. A breathing problem was diagnosed and the veteran has become more reliable since the required operation . A gallant second in the Welsh equivalent preceded a dismal performance behind Rambling Minster on ground too testing at Haydock. He’s one that a few sheckles could be thrown at granted that he is one of the few genuine stayers in the race.

A remark that could also apply to Willie Mullins’ Snowy Morning, who showed much more spark in his last run in a Grade 2 chase at Fairyhouse in February. Mullins appears, like many, to have targeted this race specifically, and with his ability to jump and travel makes him an ideal Aintree horse. A drop of rain, though, would help his cause.

To this commentator it appears one of the most open Nationals of recent times, but I expect it to fall to the best jockey riding today against the bellowing tones of ‘Ruby, Ruby, Ruby, Ruby.’ Enjoy the spectacle.

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