Sport Horse Racing

Saturday 24 March 2018

Mullins eyes on £1m National prize, but without Rubi Ball

Trainer Willie Mullins
Trainer Willie Mullins
Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

The men responsible for four of the last five Irish-trained winners of the Aintree Grand National figure prominently among the entries for the inaugural edition of the famous Liverpool race under the Crabbie's banner, though Willie Mullins' Rubi Ball is a notable absentee.

Controversial alterations to the course have prompted a surge in initial entries for the first £1m National, with the total of 115 – the highest at this stage since 2009 – up 31 on 2013.

Last week's decisive Thyestes Chase victor On His Own, a faller in each of the last two Grand Nationals, is among an eight-strong Mullins contingent that does not include the French import Rubi Ball.

Third to Bobs Worth in the Lexus Chase, Rubi Ball was a big mover in the Cheltenham Gold Cup market yesterday, with sponsors Betfred slashing his odds to 16/1 from 25/1. The towering nine-year-old has looked a likely sort to bid to emulate Hedgehunter's 2005 triumph for Mullins, who had stated that he would get an entry.

Last year's Irish Grand National runner-up Away We Go, the Paddy Power Chase winner Rockyaboya, Prince De Beauchene and Boston Bob are among his potential starters for a race that was won by six Irish horses in nine years up to 2007. Gordon Elliott's Silver Birch was the latest to achieve glory and the Co Meath-based handler has entered Roi Du Mee, Tarquinius, Toner D'Oudairies and Romanesco this time.

Ted Walsh, successful with Papillion in 2000, has put in Seabass – a game third for his daughter Katie in 2012 – and JP McManus' Colbert Station, which unseated at the Chair last year.

Aurora's Encore, a shock 66/1 hero in 2013, was retired by his trainer Sue Smith this week after fracturing a bone in his leg at Doncaster on Saturday.

Martin Brassil, successful with Numbersixvalverde in 2006, has entered the McManus-owned Double Seven, an eight-year-old whose run of five straight wins to October includes triumphs in the Midlands and Munster equivalents.

Brassil said of the 33/1 shot: "Double Seven has a rating that means he will be running in either a Crabbie's Grand National or an Irish Grand National. It's an obvious entry to make for a horse rated 146. The Grand National probably isn't as much of a jumping test as it was when Numbersixvalverde won, but Double Seven is a grand jumper."

Bog Warrior and Wrong Turn, a last-gasp winner under an inspired Ruby Walsh at Leopardstown on Sunday, are among five that Tony Martin has put in, with Barry Connell's recent £160,000 acquisition Mossey Joe one of two that appear alongside Enda Bolger's name in the 38-strong Irish delegation.

Meanwhile, Paul Nolan has revealed that Defy Logic is to be roughed off for the season after the McManus-owned novice chaser burst a blood vessel at Leopardstown on Sunday. "We decided it's best to leave him off and give him plenty of time to recover," Nolan said of the free-running seven-year-old which won in Grade One company at the Foxrock venue on St Stephen's Day.

Irish Independent

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