Baroness Dido Harding was certainly talking the talk on Saturday afternoon after her horse, Walk In The Mill, was the brave winner of the Becher Chase at Aintree.
Owner and former amateur rider Dido Harding, who won the Cheltenham Gold Cup with Cool Dawn in 1998, was totally elated:
“We were hoping to run him in the National in April, and he went lame overnight.
“So actually, from that day, this has been the target.
“Rob and Louisa (Robert Walford’s wife) have done the most amazing job getting him here – and stopping me riding him as well, which is a big part of the training job, I fear.
“I think it will be hard to say no (to the National this time), after watching that. But I have to say the temptation to get the riding permit out would be really very strong.”
Trained by Robert Walford and ridden by James Best, the eight-year-old powered away from his rivals around the Aintree elbow to get the better of the running-on Vieux Lion Rouge, with Ultragold, another Aintree fences “veteran”, back in third.
Walford said of his winner: “We knew he was in good form. He jumped great, and James gave him a great ride as well.
“We know the plan – there’s only one way to go, the Grand National. He’ll get a run now – that’s the main thing – so we probably won’t see him a huge amount (before the race).”
Jockey James Best is already relishing the return trip to Merseyside next April, saying: “I know this isn’t the National – but what a thrill. He’s just incredible, jumps from fence to fence.
“Midway through, I thought; ‘We could run a big race’. I thought; ‘Just throw him at the last’, land running – and away we’ve gone.
“April can’t come soon enough.”
Pond House trainer, David Pipe, was clearly very happy with the performance from Vieux Lion Rouge on the day: “He’s a run a cracker and galloped all the way to the line,” said Pipe.
“It was fast and furious – even in these conditions – and he would need to keep up with the pace a little more in the National on better ground, but he’s got a great record round these fences.”
Although the nine-year-old has struggled to quite see out the 4 miles in the Grand National on his three previous attempts, Pipe believes that on this latest Becher Case evidence, he looks like he may need every single yard of it now.
The Professor Caroline Tisdall and Mr John Gent owned gelding will be back in April to run in the Grand National once again, should everything go to plan with him.
The two-time Topham hero Ultragold, who finished in third place, clearly handled the step up in trip and there are plenty of positives for him going forward.
Assistant trainer, Joe Tizzard said after the race: “He’s brilliant around here; he just gets into that lovely rhythm. The trip wasn’t a problem today, which was always in the back of my mind, and it’s a big plus for him looking forward to the Grand National.”
Fourth placed Call It Magic will have a Grand National entry but will probably head towards the Topham instead.
Trained by Ross O’Sullivan, the eight-year-old made a bold bid to make all of the running, but faded back into fourth after his early exertions.
County Kildare trainer O’Sullivan said: “We’re thinking of the Topham. We’ll enter for the National, but he’ll have to go up a few pounds to get in.”
“The way he took to those fences, the long-term plan has to be to go back there. We got a great thrill out of it and we can’t wait to take him back.”
Best Grand National Prices for the Becher Chase top four:
- Walk In The Mill (33/1 Paddy Power)
- Vieux Lion Rouge (33/1 William Hill)
- Ultragold (40/1 Betfair)
- Call It Magic (50/1 Bet365)