Mangan pair set for National duty
Jimmy Mangan hopes to be double-handed as he chases a second success in the Aintree Grand National on Saturday week.
The Co Cork handler has already tasted glory in the big race, having saddled Monty's Pass to success in 2003, and is set to be represented this year by Conna Castle and Whinstone Boy, providing the latter makes the cut.
"At the moment, both horses will be going over for the National, although it is going to be tight if Whinstone Boy gets into the race," said Mangan.
"I will probably give him an entry in a handicap hurdle at Aintree on the Friday as well, so he could take his chance in that if he misses the cut for the big one.
"He is loving all of this rain at the moment and the key to him is cut in the ground; the softer the better.
"He would have a perfect racing weight if he got in and hopefully Sean Flanagan will be on board him again.
"Three of the owners were involved with Monty's Pass, so they have tasted the big glory before; although the prize money has gone up a bit since then.
"Conna Castle was a bit unlucky last time out and he would have been a good second to Let Yourself Go, which is going for the Powers Gold Cup at Fairyhouse over the weekend.
"It was still a great run on very heavy ground and he prefers better going. We missed the National last year with him but he's 11 now and we decided that he deserved to have a crack at the race."
David Pipe has a strong team assembled for the world's most famous race, with Madison Du Berlais an interesting possible along with 2008 winner Comply Or Die and Cheltenham Festival runner-up The Package.
"At the present moment we're leaning towards the National for Madison Du Berlais," said Pipe. "We will also have him entered at Punchestown and may also enter him for the race he won last year at Aintree (totesport Bowl) as well.
"Piraya will run as well. He needs a few to come out but hopefully he'll get in. Pablo Du Charmil is a possibility as well but we're still waiting to school them over the big fences.
"Comply Or Die and The Package are in good order and Comply obviously has the form round there, having finished second last year and winning the year before that.
"The Package is more of an unknown quantity but he ran a great race at Cheltenham and would have won in another five strides.
"He's due to go up 6lb so he's 6lb well-in in the National. You never know whether he's going to stay that marathon trip, but with the way he races and the way he jumps I'd be really surprised if he didn't."
Ruby Walsh admits the decision to side with ante-post favourite Big Fella Thanks is not one he has taken lightly. The champion jockey had a wealth of talent from Willie Mullins' yard and the Paul Nicholls string from which to choose. But after much deliberation, he has decided to ride last year's sixth.
"He's an improved horse to what he was last year," said Walsh. "Nobody will know which horse is right until after the race, but I can ride only one."
Nick Mitchell believes Ellerslie George has shaken off his disappointing last outing at Newbury.
The winner of the Badger Ales Trophy at Wincanton in November did not look anywhere near the same standard when last of seven finishers in a veterans' chase in early March.
"He came back after Newbury and his blood was all wrong. He was blowing hard as well," said the Dorset trainer.
"But he has scoped as clean as a whistle since and hasn't missed a day's work so he seems fine now and is still on course for the National.
"I'm still waiting on a jockey, so hopefully we will get that sorted out soon."