Former jockeys and siblings Ruby and Katie Walsh were announced this week as the Racing Ambassadors for the 2020 Grand National Festival.
Ruby Walsh won the Grand National on two occasions. His first success came in 2000 aboard Papillon, trained by his father Ted, landing a monumental gamble when scoring at 10/1 from an early morning price of 33/1. His second victory was on the Willie Mullins-trained Hedgehunter in 2005.
Walsh’s sister Katie made history in 2012 when achieving the highest finishing position ever for a female rider in the Grand National. She came home third on Seabass, who was also trained by Ted Walsh. Katie rode in the Grand National six times in all, only failing to complete the course once.
Encore Une Fois!
The JP McManus-owned Regal Encore could well be heading to Aintree next month for a crack at the Becher Chase, which will then ultimately lead to him returning to the same venue next April for the Grand National.
Regal Encore has run in two of the last three renewals of the Aintree showpiece – finishing eighth in 2017 and seventh last April to the dual-winner Tiger Roll.
The eleven-year-old ran second to Vinndication in the Sodexo Gold Cup at Ascot at the start of this month and his trainer Anthony Honeyball was highly encouraged by his performance. The gelding may line-up next in either the Becher Chase or the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury on Saturday.
Honeyball is certainly favouring Aintree with him but he is likely to be a “no-show” if the ground comes up heavy on Merseyside in December.
“I think I would be in favour of the Becher Chase, as it is the race he is more likely to win, but if it was really soft or heavy, it would be a hell of an ask jumping those National fences.”
Off To A Flyer
The Grand National is now the season-long target for the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Flying Angel after he scored last week by eight lengths in a competitive Handicap Chase at Ascot.
The victory was the eight-year-old’s first success since Grade One glory at Aintree in April 2017 in the Manifesto Novices’ Chase.
Speaking after the race Twiston-Davies said: “He has come down the handicap, and it was his turn. Hopefully, they don’t get too vicious with him. He just outstayed the others.
“He will be entered in the National and things like that. He is a stayer and jumps well.”
Flying Angel ran over the Grand National fences in both 2018 and 2019, but in the shorter Topham Chase, finishing tenth to Ultragold on the first occasion and sixth to Cadmium last year.
Practice Makes Perfect
Grand National-style schooling fences have been built by Aintree’s groundstaff once again at three locations ahead of the Becher Chase Meeting at Aintree on Saturday 7th December.
The fences have been sited at the Jockey Club Estates training grounds in Lambourn, David Pipe’s yard in Devon and at the Curragh in Ireland.
Used to their full potential last year, many trainers find the mock fences invaluable to work out whether they have a long-term Grand National prospect on their hands.
The schooling fences are available to any connections of horses entered in the two races over the Grand National fences on Becher Chase Day – those being the Becher Handicap itself and the shorter Grand Sefton Handicap Chase.