Racing: Walsh skill hailed after Becher win

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Paul Nicholls heaped praise on his stable jockey Ruby Walsh after the Irishman made almost all of the running on Silver Birch to take the Becher Chase at Aintree yesterday.

Paul Nicholls heaped praise on his stable jockey Ruby Walsh after the Irishman made almost all of the running on Silver Birch to take the Becher Chase at Aintree yesterday.

"Ruby gave him a brilliant ride. He's a great jockey and such an asset to our team," Nicholls said. "We've had a great weekend. Ruby was struggling yesterday after having an injury on Friday. He did amazingly well to ride yesterday."

Walsh and Nicholls were capping off a rewarding weekend after teaming up to win Saturday's Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon with Le Roi Miguel, while the Ditcheat handler also lifted yesterday's Sussex National at Plumpton with French Executive.

"When Ruby got off Silver Birch at Newton Abbot [on 3 November] he said this was just the horse for Aintree, so that's why we're here," said the trainer, who remarked that the Grand National would be considered for the horse - though at present he was unlikely to get in the weights.

Walsh took up a clear lead on the 4-1 favourite after early leader Ardent Scout crashed out at the ninth fence, and then produced a superb round of jumping to hold a late rally by 33-1 outsider Just In Debt. "When we got to the elbow I still had something to pick up and go with and he stuck his neck out for me," Walsh said. "But he'll definitely benefit from nicer ground," the jockey added. Silver Birch was cut to as low as 20-1 with William Hill and Ladbrokes for the 2005 National. The Tote offered 33-1.

Smarty, the 2001 Grand National runner-up, was back in third, while this year's National winner, Amberleigh House, was just touched off for fourth place in a photo-finish with Double Honour.

"I am very satisfied," said Ginger McCain, Amberleigh House's trainer. "Graham [Lee] said it was not the weight that beat him but the ground. I don't have to tell you that this is a very, very good Liverpool horse. He never made a semblance of a mistake."

Timmy Murphy and Martin Pipe's flourishing partnership continued when Over The Creek, the 7-4 favourite, followed up on last week's Cheltenham success when taking the Stanleybet Children In Need Handicap Hurdle. Murphy steered the five-year-old wide around much of the course in search of better ground and Over The Creek finished three lengths clear of Billyvoddan.

Christopher, ridden by Carl Llewellyn, rallied on the run-in to land the spoils by four lengths in the Weatherbys Insurance Handicap Chase.

Mark Bradburne, who resumed race riding only this week after a 15-week shoulder injury, took a crashing fall on the leader Kadoun four fences from home. The rider was catapulted out of the saddle and, as he hit the deck, Glenfarclas Boy appeared to run into him.

The luckless jockey was knocked out, but he regained consciousness on the way to a Liverpool hospital where he was detained for observation last night.

* Bookmakers slashed the odds of Le Roi Miguel for the King George VI Chase after Nicholls confirmed him an intended runner yesterday. The six-year-old fell in the Christmas feature at Kempton Park last season but showed he will be a different proposition this Boxing Day when winning the Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon by 20 lengths. "I was very pleased with him yesterday. He's A1 today and we're going for the King George with him now," Nicholls told BBC Sport. William Hill made Le Roi Miguel a 6-1 chance (from 14-1). The Tote went 8-1 (from 14-1).

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