Thursday 22 March 2018

Weighty task for Windermere

Lord Windermere
Lord Windermere

Lord Windermere must concede weight to every one of his opponents in the Crabbie's Grand National on Saturday.

Jim Culloty's 2014 Cheltenham Gold Cup hero gave up his title with a whimper last month, but big-race jockey Robbie McNamara thinks he will relish the unique demands of Aintree.

McNamara said: "I'd be very disappointed if he didn't take to the fences. He's a very big horse and he jumps very well. He's a brave horse, as well. He's got top weight, but he's a big horse and he won't have much dead weight on his back with me riding him."

Nick Scholfield partners Lord Windermere's stablemate Spring Heeled, who won at the Cheltenham Festival last season, for the first time.

He said: "I've been over and sat on him. He's been trained for the race and ticks all the right boxes. He's under 11st, he likes good ground and has a lot of things going for him."

Willie Mullins invariably has a say on the big events, and won the National in 2005 with Aintree specialist Hedgehunter.

His representative this year is the Ruby Walsh-ridden Ballycasey, who must bounce back after he was pulled up in the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham.

Mullins said: "We probably thought of him as a stayer before we tried other things with him. To have Ruby on your side going into the National is always worth 7lb."

Walsh said: "Maybe the step up in trip will suit him. He's in good form, but he has to put his last two runs well behind him, and that looks unlikely.

"He definitely has the ability - it's in there somewhere - but just getting it out of him is proving to be a bit tricky."

Rubi Light has Grade One form to his name over much shorter trips and has returned to winning form of late.

His rider Andrew Lynch said: "He seems to be finishing off his races a lot better, he hadn't been before because he was bursting (blood vessels).

"He got three miles in the Lexus a couple of years ago and he travels well - I know they used to say you needed a two- or two-and-a-half-mile horse back in the day.

"He has a good cruising speed. Hopefully I can hold on to him as long as I can and he'll last it out. It's all about rhythm round there and trying to stay out of trouble. Hopefully we can do both."

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