Having come closer to winning than any other woman, when third last year, Katie Walsh will have high hopes when Seabass returns to Aintree next month for the John Smith's Grand National. Remarkably, however, she could yet be beaten into the history books by her own sister-in-law.
Nina Carberry was riding Tofino Bay for the first time when he produced a magnificent performance in defeat at Cheltenham last week, and he looks excellent value at 33-1 for the National. The one caveat remains that he also holds an entry in the Irish version, on Easter Monday, but his trainer indicated that he would be urging his owner, Michael O'Leary, to head to Liverpool six days later. Dessie Hughes also felt that Carberry deserved to keep the mount after getting such a tune out of him in the John Oaksey National Hunt Chase, over four miles. Having jumped superbly in a share of the lead, Tofino Bay was left clear by a rival's fall at the second last but idled and was just collared close home by the classy Back In Focus. Some will be deceived into wondering whether he would get home at Aintree, over an even longer trip, but Carberry herself put it well on dismounting: "He wasn't tired – just lonely."
Hughes saddled Black Apalachi to finish second in the 2010 National, and is unconcerned by Tofino Bay's relative lack of experience. "I wouldn't be quite sure yet, because he's in both races and I have to speak to the owners," he said. "Personally, I would like to see him run in the English National.
"He jumps and stays so well, and could really make into a nice horse for round there. Like most National Hunt horses somewhere along the line, he got a leg when he was younger and had to have a good time off. But he's 10 years old now and I'd say he could be at his peak. He wasn't tired in the finish last week, he was just idling, and I think he was unlucky that the other horse fell and left him on his own."
Hughes had two other acceptors among the 57 published, but is pointing Magnanimity towards the Fairyhouse race. Rare Bob does go to Aintree, where he is likely to be ridden by the rising star Bryan Cooper; Hughes feels that Davy Russell, the owner's retained jockey, will almost certainly have other Aintree options in the same silks – assuming he has recovered from the punctured lung he suffered at Cheltenham. "I'd imagine they'd love Nina to ride him again," Hughes said.
Chris McGrath's Nap
Spellmaker (6.15 Kempton) Landed good support at Lingfield on his first start since a gelding operation, unlucky from a poor draw round here since and still unexposed.
Midnight Belle (4.35 Warwick) Another low on mileage in handicaps, likewise with sound excuses last time, having been turned out quickly over a longer trip.
One to watch
Mizyen (James Tate) Was heavily backed for his handicap debut at Wolverhampton on Monday but just lost out after proving too green from the gate.