Paul Townend talks Gold Cup, Grand National hopes and more

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Ladbrokes ambassador relives winning the Gold Cup, talks about his Aintree hopes, the Jockeys Championship, and his rides this weekend.

I can’t believe it’s been a week already since I won the Gold Cup. I am only starting to settle down a bit and get a bit of normality back.

Al Boum Photo wasn’t one of the obvious fancies at all, he was probably the least spoken about of Willie Mullins ones. I thought he would run well though.

I thought if he ran into a place, it would be a cracking run but he popped up and came up trumps. We tried to rob a bit but ended up robbing it all!

Given it was Willie’s first Gold Cup win it was extra special. I have been with Willie my entire career so it was nice to repay him with that.

He has given me so many chances since I was young so it was very special to ride his first Gold Cup winner.

“We just said well done and started laughing at each other.”

Straight after the race, there wasn’t much said between us to be honest. It hadn’t sunk in for either of us. We just said well done and started laughing at each other.

The reaction from the crowd was unreal. That is what’s so special about Cheltenham. Even when the horse isn’t backed or well fancied, there is always a great reception.

That’s the racing community as well. The first people to congratulate you are the people you’ve just beaten.

I had a ride in every race before the Gold Cup so I didn’t have a moment to feel the nerves. Having rides beforehand can be a good or bad thing I suppose as well.

If you’ve done badly in the previous races the confidence could be knocked but I think it’s nice to have a ride before a big race like that.

We stayed over on Friday night to celebrate. We stayed at the racecourse for a while and had a couple of drinks in the weighing room. We then ended up in the 21 Club. It was a very quiet night of course!

I came back Saturday morning where I headed to Down Royal for a couple of rides. I was definitely running on adrenaline at that point.

“I couldn’t go from the weighing room to the parade ring without someone coming up and asking for an autograph”

It has been a crazy week; a weird week to be honest! Everyday there’s people on the phone congratulating me and so forth.

I was back at Cork yesterday and I couldn’t go from the weighing room to the parade ring without someone coming up and asking for an autograph or a picture or just congratulating me.

It was a big student day yesterday so it was probably taken over the top a little bit. I won’t be getting a big head though as the lads where I work wouldn’t allow that to happen!

“I would love to ride Rathvinden in the Grand National”

Aintree isn’t far away and obviously I would love to ride Rathvinden in the Grand National but I’d imagine Ruby Walsh will ride him.

We have a nice team for the meeting. Pairofbrowneyes won at Naas just before Cheltenham. He was one of the big fancies for the Irish National last year; he didn’t get into the English one. Pleasant Company is in there too.

He was just beaten in it last year. I don’t know what I’ll be riding but Rathvinden looks the number one string for Willie. You don’t know until you try but he looks like a horse that will suit Aintree. Obviously winning the Grand National is the next one on the bucket list!

We also have the Jockeys Championship which is very much at the fore now. I will give it a good rattle anyway.

We have been involved in a good battle for most of the season so it’s tiring but if we could win it, it would be rewarding.

This weekend’s rides

Back to the job at hand, I have three rides at Thurles on Saturday and the same at Downpatrick on Sunday.

I ride Scarpeta (2.55) first who also went to Cheltenham last week. We weren’t beaten all that far actually in the Coral Cup. His jumping has let him down on a few occasions though.

I fear that Cheltenham has left his mark on him given it’s only been 10 days since he ran there.

He has a lot of ability in his own right but as I said the worry is that he only ran at the festival last week. Between the travelling and everything else, it’s not going to be an easy race.

I ride Be My Dream (3.30) for Jimmy Finn. She was second at Limerick last week. She is consistent without winning but this is her level and if she reproduces her last run it should put her bang in the mix.

I won on Jetz (4.05) for Jessica Harrington just before going to Cheltenham. He unseated Robbie Power at the first at Naas on the Sunday before the festival but he beat two of the four of these in Naas prior to that.

He takes on Cubomania here as well. He probably comes up a little bit short to be a Grade 1 horse but these races are his level and he will be competitive in them every time he turns up.

Moving to Downpatrick on Sunday, I ride Slippery Surface (2.45) first for Edward O’Grady.

He is a course winner but his last run was disappointing at Leopardstown over Christmas.

David Mullins rode him that day and I am not sure what happened. He ended up pulling up. I won on him a couple of Saturdays before that.

The ground will suit him and he has an each-way chance. He has a little bit of improvement to do to join the top ones.

Danse Away (3.50) is my ride in the Ulster National. It is three-and-a-half-miles and very competitive. My ride had been running consistently and I think he has an each-way chance.

He came second at Naas the last day and if he can run like that again he should give us something to shout about.

My last ride is Allduckornodinner (4.25) for Gavin Cromwell and his horses are in great form.

This lad won at Down Royal over Christmas but hasn’t been in the shake up since then.

He will have to put his best foot forward here and the way Gavin’s horses are going at the minute, it would be hard to rule him out.

Paul

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Paul Townend

Paul is an Irish jockey who competes in National Hunt racing and is an integral part of the famous and vastly successful Willie Mullins team. Paul was Irish jump racing Champion Jockey for the 2010-11 season and will be discussing his rides in a weekly blog with Ladbrokes News throughout the jumps season.