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3:31pm UK, Saturday April 14, 2012
Thirty-five years after a woman first rode in the Grand National, today could see the first female winner.
Two women will be in the field of 40 riders – another first – and both have a serious chance of victory.
Katie Walsh makes her National debut on Seabass, winner of its last seven races for her trainer dad, Ted.
But her brother, Ruby, will not be riding in the National after falling in an earlier race on Saturday.
He was due to ride On His Own, which will now be taken on by Paul Townend.
The Walshs’ sister-in-law, Nina Carberry, who has already completed this four-and-a-half mile course three times, rides the 2011 Irish National winner Organised Confusion.
Seabass has been strongly supported today, its price plunging from around 20-1 to nearer 10-1 and possible favouritism.
Its main rival at the top of the market is Synchronised, bidding to become the first Cheltenham Gold Cup winner since the legendary Golden Miller in 1934 to go on and take the National as well.
Sixteen-times champion jockey Tony McCoy rides for trainer Jonjo O’Neill, who celebrated his 60th birthday on Friday.
The same combination triumphed two years ago with Don’t Push It, and all 39 rivals will be wary of them.
If Synchronised is up with the leaders inside the final mile, it will take a very fine effort to beat him.
However, he is not the only horse with a strong chance of making history.
Ballabriggs is aiming to be the first horse to win two Nationals in a row since the 70’s triple champion Red Rum, whose late trainer Ginger McCain was honoured at the course this week with a statue.
McCain’s son Donald trains Ballabriggs, who has been well supported this week. It would be fitting if he bucked the trend.
But there are so many serious rivals. The national newspaper tipsters have gone for a dozen options – and they are paid to know.
So what chance have you and I got? But bookies say about half the adult population will have a bet, spending a total of £300m.