Ruby Walsh lifts the lid on the unique experience of the American Grand National

He won at Far Hills on Saturday and speaks to Off The Ball

BY Raf Diallo 20:00 Wednesday 19 October 2016, 20:00 19 Oct 2016

Image: Andrew Matthews / PA Wire/Press Association Images

On Saturday night, Ruby Walsh enjoyed success in the American Grand National.

Onboard the 9-year-old Cyril Murphy-trained Rawnaq, Walsh was victorious in the jump race.

Speaking to Off The Ball, he reflected on the scale of the victory.

"I suppose it's a long way removed from the English Grand National but it's a Grand National by title anyway. It's a big pot, it's a Grade One race, it was nice to get to ride in it, it was nice to win it but I don't think it's as stiff a challenge as Aintree," he admitted. 

"The guy who usually rides it, Jack Doyle, got a fall in Belmont a few weeks ago and broke his pelvis. So I got the chance to ride him. I guess I went because it was the biggest jump race I could find a ride in globally last weekend, so that's why I went."

Walsh also spoke about the unique environment at the Far Hills, New Jersey course on race day with marquee tents dominating the landscape.

"It's only one day a year, so it's all put up for the one day. But a lot of it is centred around picnics in the middle and every berth or bay where you park a car is numbered and pre-sold and there were 35-40,000 American people having a picnic," he said, adding that the track is maintained extremely well despite not being used beyond the one day.

With jump racing in the USA having declined in prominence since the 1940s and '50s, some changes are afoot.

"Even in New Jersey last Saturday, there was no gambling, no on-course. Now, it is due to start again next year. The New Jersey state have authorised gambling again and there will be betting there next year. So this is essentially a race meeting with no betting, so to say that you'd get a crowd that big and produce as much prize money as they did solely on entrance fees and sponsorship, is incredible," he said. 

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