Ruby Walsh: The Irish Grand National suits novice chasers

Ruby hints at which horses to consider for the Irish Grand National

Ruby Walsh Fairyhouse

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*Odds quoted on the widget are Future Racing/Antepost prices which means that if your selection does not run in the race for whatever reason, you will lose your stake under traditional antepost rules

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Ruby Walsh believes novice chasers stand an excellent chance of success in the Irish Grand National, set to run on Easter Monday at Fairyhouse.

Our resident jockey-turned-pundit has a superb record in the race, having won on three occasions, and is expertly qualified to give his take on the profile required for the 3m5f steeplechase.

Speaking on the latest episode of Paddy Power’s From The Horse’s Mouth podcast, Ruby also took a quick trip down memory lane and recalled his fondest memories of the Easter Festival – with this year’s meeting getting underway on Saturday.

The three times I won the Irish National, I was on novices – Commanche Court (2000), Numbersixvalverde (2005) and Burrows Saint (2019). In recent years, Our Duke was also a novice and I do think it’s a race for novices.

It’s that time of the year when some of them should have plenty of experience under their belts but still be ahead of the handicapper. I always did try to ride novices in it and I still pick novices when I’m trying to give a tip for the race. I just think they’re ahead of the handicapper, or at least should be.

Fitness shouldn’t be an issue for any horse at this time of the year. It’s not like you’re asking an unexposed novice learning his trade to do this trip in November. You have to have had at least three runs over fences to run in the race, and most of them will have had more than that – maybe four or five.

Horse Racing tips: Ruby Walsh’s best antepost bets for the Irish Grand National

You’re talking about horses that have a lot of mileage under their belts and are in theory still novices but are basically handicappers with a novice title. They’re a little unexposed because a lot of them won’t have run in open handicap company.

Coko Beach has won the Thyestes so the handicapper should have been able to assess him while Run Wild Fred was second in that race, but there is a pile more of them in there. For example, Espanito Bello has had just four runs over fences – with a cracking run on his last start at Navan – and he is unexposed and could be improving. Fair play if Tiger Roll takes his chance here with 11st9lbs off a rating of 163, as it would be a Desert Orchid-style performance if he wins.

Espanito Bello Mark Bolger Navan February 21, 2021

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Luck of the Irish

The Irish Grand National was a lucky race for me. I won three of them and was second a couple of times too. It is a wonderful race – a great race when Fairyhouse is packed to the rafters. It’s definitely a meeting that transcends north and south; a lot of people come south for it. It’s usually a very, very good day out and a wonderful race to win.

It’s a brilliant race and usually a great atmosphere, and with two full circuits of Fairyhouse… the fences are always packed so it takes a bit of jumping and you have to stay. It’s a race that can produce any kind of result. It was a lucky race for me, and I’m still the last person to win it!

Commanche Court won in 2000, then went on to win the Punchestown Gold Cup nine days later. It was an incredible four-month period in our lives, as a family, because Papilon had won the English Grand National at Aintree a couple of weeks before Commanche Court turned up at Fairyhouse.

Commanche Court Ruby Walsh Foxchapel King Shay Barry Fairyhouse April 24, 2000

Horse Racing tips: Frank Hickey’s best antepost bets for Irish Grand National

Commanche Court’s previous run had been in the Arkle at Cheltenham where he was brought down by Frozen Groom when he was starting to stay on and from halfway in the Irish National there was only ever going to be one winner. Foxchapel King was in front but Commanche Court was going so easy, he jumped like a buck and won how he wanted. Nine days later he went and won the Heineken Gold Cup at Punchestown, and that was a magical period in our lives.

When I won on Numbersixvalverde in 2005, I just nipped Jack High who was trained by my dad. It is a win that I don’t look back on too much.

It was professional, and I was employed to do a job by Martin Brassil and Bernard Carroll. Numversixvalverde won, but was there any satisfaction beating a horse trained by my dad? No. I was paid to do a job and I did it. It was great to win it, and great for Martin and Bernie, but I can’t say I ever got much satisfaction out of it.

*Odds quoted on the widget are Future Racing/Antepost prices which means that if your selection does not run in the race for whatever reason, you will lose your stake under traditional antepost rules

Ruby Walsh’s Irish Grand National antepost tip

Espanito Bello

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