WAYNE Hutchinson is hoping that Walkon’s taste of Aintree last year will stand them in good stead for Saturday’s Grand National.
The Swindon jockey heads to the famous Liverpool course ready to tackle the most daunting national hunt race on the calendar on the Alan King-trained 50-1 shot.
But this will not be the grey gelding’s first taste of Grand National week as Hutchinson steered the nine-year-old to second place in the Topham Chase last year.
And it is that experience that Hutchinson is hoping that will pay dividends on Saturday afternoon.
“Walkon is a lovely horse,” Hutchinson said. “He did really well last year when he finished second to Triolo d’Alene.
“He’s also finished second in the Paddy Power Gold Cup, so I don’t think that the big race atmosphere will affect him.”
“So he has had a taste of the fences, the question is whether he can stay the distance.”
Expecting a frantic start in the four-mile three-furlong, 110-yard race, Hutchinson says that it is a much more relaxed atmosphere compared to the Cheltenham Gold Cup week.
“It’s different,” Hutchinson said. “It is still a big race and still all over the globe, but it is not as intense as Cheltenham - everyone is a bit more relaxed.
“The start of National is frantic though, there are 40 horses all jostling for position over the first few fences.
“Once you’ve reached the sixth, Bechers (Brook), it starts to fan out a bit more.
“The ground will not be a problem for him, I expect it to be no better than good, and he has form on heavy to good ground.”
The original plan for Hutchinson was to ride Godsmejudge in the big race he steered the gelding to success at the Scottish Grand National in Ayr last April.
However, King felt that the eight-year-old is not ready to for Aintree and instead will look to defend his title north of the border.
King said: “I have struggled to get Godsmejudge right since December and, though he is gradually getting there, Aintree will come too soon, though we have not given up hope that he might yet come to himself in time to defend his Scottish National crown at Ayr a week later.
“Obviously Walkon is unproven over the trip, but he seemed to enjoy the big fences when second to Triolo d'Alene in the Topham Trophy there last season. That form looks solid enough after the winner followed up in the Hennessy at Newbury in November.
“We were also giving him a stone so, hopefully he’ll give Wayne (Hutchinson) a good ride around there.”
Hutchinson will warm-up for tomorrow’s Grand National looking to go one better in today’s Topham Chase.
The Swindon jockey will be on board Mart Lane in the race he steered Walkon, who he rides in tomorrow’s big event, to second place last year.
The Dr Richard Newland-trained gelding has struggled in his two outings to date in 2014, finishing ninth out of 12 at Doncaster last month and pulling up at the same venue two months earlier.
However, the last time Hutchinson was on board the nine-year-old he rode him to victory in south Yorkshire.
And after Worcester-based Newland brought the gelding to Lambourn this week, Hutchinson is hopeful for Mart Lane’s first trip to Aintree.
“He went well when Dr Newland brought him up to Lambourn this week,” Hutchinson said. “I won with him at Doncaster in December.
“The one question we do have is how he will take the fences at Aintree, so touch wood he’ll be OK.”