Ruby Walsh: Irish Grand National dreams and Tiger tales

Ruby's looking forward to the Fairyhouse Easter Festival and back to when he was inside the ropes with Tiger Woods...



If the forecast is right for the weekend, then we could have some pretty lively ground at Fairyhouse this weekend for the Irish Grand National meeting.

It leaves us with a decision to make as we wouldn’t risk them on unsuitable ground with the Punchestown Festival just a week later. The same goes for the novice hurdlers and chasers.

Willie Mullins will walk the track between now and the start of the Easter Festival on Sunday to decide what’s best.

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A Grand race

The feature race this weekend and one of the highlights of the season – is the Irish Grand National on Easter Monday at 5pm, where we’ve seven who are likely to get a run – if they all take their chance.

At the moment, Noel Meade’s novice Tout Est Permis looks like he will be shouldering top weight and while there have been some great weight-carrying performances in the National in previous years, it’s a big ask.

Novices have a very good record in the Irish National because they can improve rapidly before the handicapper can properly assess their ability, but Tout Est Permis will have to give weight to some very good horses in the field.

If they all stand their ground, Noel Meade’s runner would need to be putting up a near Grade One performance to win on Monday. Ideally, you’d love to be carrying less than 11 stone in a competitive big-field handicap like this.


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Pick a winner

It won’t be the first time this season I’ve had a tough decision to make about which one to pick – especially with the drying ground forecast.

I can struggle to pick the right one when we’ve only two entered.

Of ours, Apairofbrowneyes is an intended runner. He missed Aintree, but is in good form and worked well last Tuesday. He started favourite for the race last year but unfortunately fell at the first. He got a 10lb penalty for winning the Leinster National, but is a fine, big, strong horse who should be able to carry it.

The step up in trip to 3m 5f should suit Total Recall, who didn’t take to Aintree last year and the Irish National has always been his target this season.

Isleofhopeanddreams ran a fantastic race last year (above) when just beaten a head by General Principle, he would probably want a shower of rain, but ran well at Naas.

Acapello Bourgeois has a few entries over the weekend that he could take up, while there was only a length and a half between C’est Jersey and Burrows Saint when they ran behind Duc Des Genievres in a beginners’ chase at Gowran Park.

Bellow Mome proved his well-being when third in the Leinster National behind Pairofbrowneyes and Isleofhopeanddreams, so there’s plenty of ours with the credentials to run a big race.


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Tiger tales

It was wonderful to watch Tiger Woods win the Masters last weekend. I wish the tee time wasn’t pushed forward because I missed most of it riding at Tramore, but like the old saying goes, ‘form is temporary class is permanent’.

He really had to battle and kept digging it out. He didn’t make any mistakes and his tee shot at 16 was incredible. It took the pressure off. When the door opened and Francesco Molinari went into the water, Tiger didn’t let him back in, he just closed it.

In sport, you have to take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way, whether it’s horse racing, golf or whatever. It was massive what he did. To rebuild his stroke and get himself at 43 years of age into the physical condition he is in is incredible. To look at him on the green on Sunday, the muscle tone he had, even compared to when he won his first Major – the physical commitment he has is astonishing.

Those are proper highs and lows and that’s what sport is and that’s what sport does to you. You just have to keep believing and having a work ethic. You have to work to get back, whether it’s rehab, gym work, exercises or fitness – it’s the commitment to that regime. That’s what you have to do and it takes a lot of work. Tiger Woods has that commitment in spades.

I met him when I caddied for AP McCoy at Adare Manor seven years ago. Playing with AP definitely left its mark on him. He had to go and rebuild his whole swing after watching AP playing.

The truth is I think it took Tiger seven years to get over playing with AP.

He picked up all the bad tricks McCoy taught him.

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What do you think?