Ruby Walsh, seeking his third win in the race, has chosen The Midnight Club from various possible mounts in the John Smith's Grand National at Aintree on April 9. The Midnight Club has been among the favourites since winning his rehearsal at Fairyhouse last month. His trainer, Willie Mullins, is especially relieved by Walsh's decision as Paul Townend, his regular understudy, is injured.
After Walsh made his decision, Paul Nicholls promptly booked Harry Skelton to ride Niche Market. Skelton rode the gelding when he won the 2009 Irish National for his former trainer, Bob Buckler. Nicholls also confirmed that Kauto Star and Denman will run again this spring following their defeats behind Long Run in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Kauto Star will go to the Punchestown Festival, while Denman will run at Aintree. "Kauto Star had a hard race and ran an absolute blinder," Nicholls said. "It certainly put all those who said he should retired right, and he's fresh and well. Denman ran a mighty race, too. He has only had two runs this season and we'd just like to see some rain before Aintree."
Dunboyne Express, one of the best Irish juveniles last year, made the most of a simple opportunity on his reappearance in Leopardstown's 2,000 Guineas Trial yesterday, out-classing just two rivals. Found to be ill after losing his unbeaten record in the Racing Post Trophy, Dunboyne Express is likely to head for Irish Guineas.
The fillies' trial on the same card was won by Empowering, who landed a gamble by making all under Joseph O'Brien, wearing the colours of his mother Anne-Marie. His father, Aidan, indicated that the filly may now be trained for the Qipco 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket.
Johnny Murtagh, who quit his job at Ballydoyle at the end of last season, was back in the old routine as he made his return to the service of the Aga Khan. One of his two winners in the green and red silks for John Oxx was Mesariya, quoted 25-1 for the Investec Oaks by Ladbrokes after an impressive maiden success.
Connectivity (4.30 Towcester)
Made a good start for his new stable at Chepstow, going well for a long way and finishing clear of the third. That was an improvement on his Irish form where his best efforts came on this faster ground.
Silver Bay (4.00 Towcester)
Has been in the doldrums but was showing a lot more appetite back from a break until hampered last time. Suited by a stamina test and well in on his best form.
One to watch
Start Me Up (Charlie Swan) was pulled up in Cheltenham's Albert Bartlett but was still in with a shout when all but brought down two out – looking much improved for trying three miles on better ground.