Ground conditions could yet dictate Tony McCoy’s Grand National mount

Champion jockey was unseated from Ted Walsh’s Colbert Station in last year’s National

Ground conditions could yet dictate what Irish-trained horse Tony McCoy teams up with in Saturday’s Crabbie’s Aintree Grand National, with soft going increasingly predicted for the world-famous race in Liverpool.

Earlier in the week bookmakers betting on which of JP McManus's entries McCoy would eventually plump for had made Martin Brassil's Double Seven a long odds-on shot over Ted Walsh's Colbert Station.

McCoy was unseated from Colbert Station in last year’s National but the legendary champion hockey, famously a National winner in 2010 on Don’t Push It, is likely to leave a final decision until as close to tomorrow’s final declaration stage as possible.

McManus's racing manager, Frank Berry, predicted that call won't come until "about half an hour before the jockeys have to be declared" and indicated yesterday that the state of the going may play a big role in McCoy's final decision.


“Double Seven wouldn’t want a lot of rain. Colbert Station, any rain wouldn’t matter to him, he’d handle any ground, which Double Seven wouldn’t,” Berry reported.

Already Britain's champion trainer Nicky Henderson is predicting soft conditions ahead of one of the few major races he has yet to win.

“I think it is bound to be on the soft side. They’ll make it that way,” Henderson predicted yesterday.

“For Triolo D’Alene, Hunt Ball and Shakalakaboomboom, all three of them want good ground but they’re probably not going to get it.

"Long Run will cope better with softer ground more than the others probably. I accept they want to slow the ground down, but I hope not too much," he added.

Opening day
Prince De Beauchene and Vesper Bell will fly the Willie Mullins flag in Saturday's big race but Mullins will be represented by just Diakali in tomorrow's Aintree Hurdle after electing to bypass the opening day Grand National festival highlight with both Hurricane Fly and Annie Power.

The standout horse in the race looks to be The New One, so unlucky in last month’s Champion Hurdle, and on course to try and improve on last year’s second to Zarkandar in the two-and-a-half-mile Grade One.

Last year’s winner First Lieutenant will defend his Betfred Bowl crown against the Ryanair winner Dynaste tomorrow. Irish hopes will also rest with Tom Taaffe’s Argocat.

The day after the National, and just a fortnight before its own Grand National at Easter, Fairyhouse hosts a new Grade 1 fixture highlighted by the €90,000 feature for mares, and a card worth over €300,000 in total.

A total of 17 mares were left in the Irish Stallion Farms Mares Hurdle at yesterday’s five-day stage and almost half of them came from Willie Mullins’s yard as the champion trainer bids to follow up Annie Power’s odds-on success in 2013.

The list of Closuttton hopefuls for this Sunday include the course winner Gitane Du Berlais as well as Adriana Des Mottes who was brought down in the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Noel Meade intends bringing Apache Stronghold back to action in the two and a half Coolmore Novice Hurdle. Apache Stronghold had been a leading contender for the Neptune at Cheltenham but was forced out of the festival.

“He worked the other day at Fairyhouse and we were very happy with him. Hopefully he’ll go to Fairyhouse this weekend,” Meade reported. “He is not 100 per cent wound up but I hope he would be by Punchestown.”

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column