Grand National 2017 Fact Files
Randox Heath Grand National

Pleasant Company

Ruby Walsh is set to partner Pleasant Company in the Randox Health Grand National at Aintree.

Pleasant Company
© Caroline Norris
Pleasant Company

Willie Mullins has five entries for this year's renewal but Walsh is set to side with the Bobbyjo Chase winner.

Mullins also has Alechi Inois guaranteed a run, but Sambremont, Polidam and The Crafty Butcher all seem unlikely to make the cut.

Walsh, who has won the National aboard Papillon (2000) and Hedgehunter (2005), told At The Races: "I'd imagine I'll ride Pleasant Company.

"Alechi (Inois) looks to have an awful lot of weight (11st 7lb). It's probably a summer mark he has more than a winter mark.

"The others of ours from 55 downwards, will they get in? It's touch and go."

Despite Michael O'Leary's well-publicised spat with British Horseracing Authority chief handicapper Phil Smith following the publication of the weights, his Gigginstown House Stud operation is still set to be well represented in the Grand National.

Almost as soon as the weights were released, Gigginstown-owned top-weight Outlander was ruled out, shortly followed by leading fancy Don Poli, but the team could still have a strong hand.

Gigginstown racing manager Eddie O'Leary told the Irish Independent: " We may run Thunder And Roses, Rogue Angel, Wounded Warrior, Measure Of My Dreams and Roi Des Francs in the National.

"We're looking to run Empire Of Dirt And Outlander in the Aintree Bowl, though they've it to prove after Cheltenham."

Pleasant Company (IRE) 9-10-11
Breeding: b g Presenting – Katie Flame (Alderbrook)
Breeder: Susan Bredin
Born: April 15, 2008
Owner: Malcolm Denmark
Trainer: Willie Mullins IRE
Jockey: Ruby Walsh
Form: 134/43/3413P-141
*Lightly-raced nine-year-old, having made just 13 starts under rules including six chase appearances. Miinnehoma (1994) was the last Grand National winner to have less than 10 chase starts beforehand (nine).
*Heads to Aintree on the back of a half-length success over Thunder And Roses in G3 Bobbyjo Chase (3m 1f) on heavy ground at Fairyhouse on February 25, 2017. Hedgehunter, also trained by Mullins, captured the same race before winning the Grand National in 2005.
*Fourth on first outing for almost nine months in Thyestes Handicap Chase (3m 1f) at Gowran Park on January 26, 2017.
*Ended last season by beating Regal Encore by three-quarters of a length in Pat Taaffe Handicap Chase (3m 1f) at the 2016 Punchestown Festival.
*Has never fallen or unseated his rider. Failed to complete once when pulled up.
Jump race record: Starts 13; Wins 4; 2nd -; 3rd 4. Win & Place Prize Money: £74,808
Malcolm C Denmark
Malcolm Denmark, born in July, 1955, set up the London-based Mediaforce Group in 1984 – the company was the first to put advertising leaflets in the middle of newspapers. The business, of which Denmark is currently chairman and chief executive, has grown to dominate that market and now distributes six billion leaflets a year, but also has lots of other strands, owning a media portfolio of advertising agencies, digital representation and newspaper publishing networks. The latter includes 15 regional newspapers in Ireland, including the Limerick Leader, the Donegal Democrat, the Kilkenny People and the Leinster Leader, which were bought from 2013 onwards by his Iconic Newspapers subsidiary. The following statement is on the Mediaforce Group website “Malcolm looks to bring a 360 degree approach to the Mediaforce Group, making it a powerhouse within the industry”. Racing interests: He started owning racehorses in 1996 when his father became ill, deciding to have a couple of horses with Mark Pitman, who himself was just starting out with a licence. Financed Pitman’s purchase of Weathercock House from the trainer’s mother Jenny in 1999, and subsequently employed Carl Llewellyn (2006-2009) and Warren Greatrex (2009-2012) as salaried trainers at the Lambourn yard. Pitman returned to oversee a few horses for Denmark at the yard at the end of 2015, while Flat trainer and former champion jockey Richard Hughes is the current principal incumbent. Denmark currently has the majority of his horses in training with Tony Martin and Willie Mullins in Ireland; Pitman and James Fanshawe look after his UK-based runners. His best horses have included Monsignor, who provided the owner with his two Cheltenham Festival wins in the 1999 Weatherbys Champion Bumper and the 2000 Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle, and the 2009 bet365 Gold Cup victor Hennessy. He has over 15 horses in training.
No previous Randox Health Grand National runners
Willie Mullins IRE (Bagenalstown, County Carlow)
Born: September 15, 1956 Background: A six-time champion amateur rider in Ireland, his successes in the saddle included the 1983 Fox Hunters’ Chase at Aintree on Atha Cliath (among the also-rans were Robert Waley-Cohen, chairman of Cheltenham Racecourse, and former Aintree Racecourse chairman Lord Daresbury). As a jockey in the Randox Health Grand National, his rides included The Ladys Master, who ran out in 1983, and Hazy Dawn, who fell at the sixth the following year. He hails from one of Ireland’s most famous racing families, being a son of the late Paddy Mullins, the outstanding all-round trainer whose most dazzling star was Dawn Run, winner of the 1984 Champion Hurdle and 1986 Cheltenham Gold Cup. Training Achievements: Mullins, who took out a training licence in 1988, has been Ireland’s champion Jump trainer 11 times. He has won most of the major prizes in Britain and Ireland, and several in France as well. He has 54 Cheltenham Festival successes to his credit, including Champion Hurdles with Annie Power, Faugheen and Hurricane Fly, and an extraordinary eight in the Champion Bumper, starting with Wither Or Which (which he also rode) in 1996. He has been leading trainer at The Festival for five of the last seven years (including a record eight winners in 2015) and lies second on the all-time list of most successful trainers behind Nicky Henderson after six successes this year. Mullins’ star performer in the early part of the century was Florida Pearl, who was placed in two Cheltenham Gold Cups, won the 1998 RSA Chase, the 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2004 Irish Gold Cups in Ireland as well as the 2001 King George VI Chase and the 2002 Betway Bowl at Aintree. The brilliant Hurricane Fly won the Stan James Champion Hurdle in 2011 and 2013 and Mullins’ Cheltenham Festival winners include the amazing Quevega who created history by becoming the only horse to win the same race in six consecutive years (the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle). Mullins has around 180 horses at his Closutton yard near Bagenalstown in Co Carlow. He is being challenged this season by Gordon Elliott for the Irish Jump trainers’ title. His first Grand National runner as a trainer, Micko’s Dream, fell at the first in 2000. Mullins, a former chairman of the Irish Trainers’ Federation, also suffered disappointment in 2004 when Hedgehunter departed at the final fence in the Randox Health Grand National when looking assured of a place. He overcame bad luck the following year when Hedgehunter came home 14 lengths clear of Royal Auclair and the same horse finished second in 2006.
Randox Health Grand National Record: 2000 Micko’s Dream (FELL 1st); 2002 Alexander Banquet (UR 6th); 2004 Alexander Banquet (FELL 18th), Hedgehunter (FELL 30th); 2005 HEDGEHUNTER (WON); 2006 Hedgehunter (2nd); 2007 Hedgehunter (9th), Homer Wells (PU 22nd), Bothar Na (PU 29th), Livingstonebramble (UR 6th); 2008 Snowy Morning (3rd), Hedgehunter (13th); 2009 Snowy Morning (9th), Irish Invader (11th); 2010 Snowy Morning (6th), Arbor Supreme (UR 15th); 2011 The Midnight Club (6th), Dooney’s Gate (FELL 6th), Arbor Supreme (FELL 28th); 2012 The Midnight Club (11th), Quiscover Fontaine (FELL 17th), On His Own (FELL 22nd); 2013 Quiscover Fontaine (16th), Quel Esprit (PU 24th), On His Own (FELL 25th); 2014 Vesper Bell (13th), Prince De Beauchene (16th); 2015 Ballycasey (BD 8th); 2016 On His Own (FELL 15th), Sir Des Champs (FELL 15th), Boston Bob (PU 22nd), Ballycasey (UR 29th)
Ruby Walsh
Born: May 14, 1979 Background: Ruby (Rupert) Walsh is a son of 11-time Irish amateur champion jockey, Ted Walsh, now a trainer and television pundit. He is the second of Walsh’s four children; one sister, Katie, is a highly successful amateur rider and another, Jennifer, acts as his agent. Ted Walsh junior, the other son, is married to leading amateur rider Nina Carberry who is pregnant with their first child. Ruby is acknowledged as one of the best riders and horsemen of his generation and now rides primarily for Ireland’s top stable, that of Willie Mullins. He used to split his time between Britain, where he was the main jockey for trainer Paul Nicholls, and Ireland for 11 years. He had his first success under Rules aboard Siren Song at Gowran Park on July 25, 1995, and followed in his father’s footsteps when capturing the Irish amateurs’ championship at the age of 19 while still studying for his Leaving Certificate. He was champion Irish National Hunt jockey in his first season as a professional (1998/99) and has taken the title a further 10 times (2000/2001, 2004/05, 2005/06, 2006/07, 2007/08, 2008/09, 2009/10, 2013/14, 2014/15, 2015/16). Walsh has won the Grand National twice on Papillon (2000, trained by his father) and Hedgehunter (2005). He is the most successful jockey of all time at the Cheltenham Festival (with 56 winners), where he was leading rider for the 11th time this year. His Cheltenham Festival victories include the 2007 and 2009 Timico Cheltenham Gold Cups on Kauto Star, three Betway Queen Mother Champion Chases (2004 Azertyuiop, 2008 and 2009 Master Minded), four Stan James Champion Hurdles (2011 and 2013 Hurricane Fly, 2015 Faugheen, 2016 Annie Power) and five Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdles (2012, 2011, 2010 and 2009 Big Buck’s, 2017 Nichols Canyon). There are few omissions in his list of big-race successes; he won five King George VI Chases on Kauto Star and is the only current rider to have won all four national Grand Nationals – as well as Papillon and Hedgehunter, he took the Irish version on Numbersixvalverde (2005), the Welsh version on Silver Birch (2005) and the Scottish version on Take Control (2002). He also won the Australian equivalent on Bashboy in 2015 and the American Grand National Hurdle on Rawnaq in 2016. Walsh enjoyed another notable success abroad when Blackstairmountain became the first European-trained winner of Japan’s biggest Jump race, the Nakayama Grand Jump, in 2013. He has partnered over 2,600 winners. His autobiography was published in October, 2010. He is married to Gillian and the couple have two daughters, Isabelle and Elsa.
Randox Health Grand National Record: 2000 PAPILLON (WON); 2001 Papillon (4th); 2002 Kingsmark (4th); 2003 Shotgun Willy (PU 22nd); 2005 HEDGEHUNTER (WON); 2006 Hedgehunter (2nd); 2007 Hedgehunter (9th); 2008 Hedgehunter (13th); 2009 My Will (3rd); 2011 The Midnight Club (6th); 2013 On His Own (FELL 25th); 2015 Ballycasey (BD 8th)