The Grand National is the most famous race in the world, and I’m really excited to be riding in it, especially as I’m on Teaforthree (pictured above in blue/white stripes), who is 9-1 favourite at the moment. It’s really excited and I’m very privileged to have the chance to ride him.
I rode Teaforthree at Cheltenham in the Gold Cup and he ran a great race there — finishing 8th. It sounds strange to have a Grand National prep run in the Gold Cup, but he’s high rated so there wasn’t much he could run in before. He came out of it well, he tired a couple out but I looked after him and now he’s A1 for the National.
I went over to Rebecca Curtis’ yard in Pembrokeshire last Friday to ride him out — he felt really good. It’s a nice area where she is, it’s right by the sea. He seems to like the fresh sea air too, he was jig-jogging around and seemed really well in himself.
We finished 3rd in last year’s Grand National, so that was a confidence booster — he knows the track and I know he can get round.
But it’s a unique race — you need a horse that can jump and stay, but you also need a lot of luck.
You can’t really have a definite plan, you need to have an idea of the position you want to be in and who you don’t want to be following, but you really just have to take it as it comes.
You also can’t just think about your own horse, you need to be aware of everything around you. The start is important, you need to jump off well and you don’t want to be behind a bad jumper!
The fences are very different too. In a normal steeplechase the birch is stuck upright, whereas here it lies across the fences, so you can get away with knocking the top few inches off. The fences have been made much safer and softer now too, plus the drops have been levelled off so it’s a much more horse-friendly race.
The build up to the race
Obviously there’s pressure going into the Grand National and everyone gets a bit nervous before you go out. I’ve ridden in it several times now though, my 1st ride in it was when I was 18 [I’m now 24].
It’s a race that everyone watches, millions of people worldwide, even those who don’t really like racing.
I’ll be pretty chilled out before the race though, I sit next to Sam Twiston-Davies in the weighing room so we’ll be chatting to keep our minds off it. Luckily I don’t have any low weights either so I’ll be able to enjoy my breakfast! I’ll walk the course in the morning too.
Marcus Armytage is doing a coursewalk for H&H this year, so you can see what a Grand National winner says about the track too.
I’m probably riding Cedre Bleu in the Topham [on Friday], he should take to the fences well and it’s good for me to have a warm up before the big race.
Cheltenham is for the racing purists, and although they still go to Aintree too, there’s a different crowd. I enjoy people watching at Aintree — it’s a fun atmosphere and everyone makes loads of effort.
A classy field
There are some really classy horses in the race this year and it’s great to see owners running their top horses.
Long Run has won a Gold Cup and Tidal Bay is good enough to have run in the Gold Cup too. I’ve ridden Tidal Bay at home and he’s a dude. He’s a clever horse and an old pro.
And I have a soft spot for Hunt Ball as he was my 1st Cheltenham Festival winner. He’ll take to the fences well, but I wonder whether he’ll have the stamina for 4m4f.
The Rainbow Hunter [who I won on at Doncaster in January] will get a good race if it rains. He came down at the Canal Turn last year, but he was going well until then.
Good luck and safe rounds to all runners and riders, enjoy the race everyone watching,
Watch the Grand National live on Channel 4 at 4.15pm on Saturday 5 April
Don’t miss H&H’s Grand National preview this week (3 April issue)