Tony Dobbin had the ride of a lifetime when he won the Grand National three years ago on Lord Gyllene, making virtually every yard of the running. His first attempt, on Ushers Island in 1994, ended on the floor at the third fence, but he completed last year, in 17th place, on Avro Anson. On Saturday the 27-year-old Ulsterman teams up with Listen Timmy.
"Being in front from the word go on Lord Gyllene probably made it a bit easier," he said, "it meant a clear view of every fence and no interference. Even though it's a four-and-a-half-mile race, a good start is essential. There's always a lot of hustle and bustle there as you try to get a good position because you want your horse to have a decent view of the first couple of fences.
"The third is the first ditch, one of the biggest fences on the course. It's a really tall fence and comes early on, which makes it seem bigger. As soon as you're over it you're thinking about Becher's. From where we sit the fences tend to look the same, but you know it's Becher's because of the natural hedges running up to it on either side and you can see it coming. I'd try to jump it in the middle where it's not quite as steep. After that, you can begin to settle down.
"The course begins to turn and the next one, the Foinavon fence, is the smallest, but I use it as a practice for the Canal Turn and try to jump it slightly on the angle to prepare the horse for what is coming. The Canal Turn is 90 degrees and there is ground to be saved. You try to jump it on the angle and come out as close to the rail as you can, but if you're in the pack it can get a bit tight. It should suit Listen Timmy as he naturally goes left-handed.
"Then you can let your fingers relax a bit before you come back on to the course and start thinking about the Chair. You want a bit of light at it, especially as there will be loose horses. It's a very big jump, not the highest, but a huge leap. I find a bit of speed helps; not in the sense of rushing the horse, just creating momentum.
"Then, after the water, you take a deep breath and go and do it again. After the Canal Turn you can start thinking about racing. But it's a very long way to go.
"If you're in the first six or eight at this stage it's a fantastic feeling. But even if you're hacking home it's nice to be able to say you got round. Even to complete is an achievement."
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