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Return flight planned for Papillon.

Martell Grand National hero Papillon could run again this season at the Punchestown Festival, trainer Ted Walsh revealed yesterday. And the gelding will will be campaigned next season with the aim of a repeat at Aintree in 2001.

Speaking to a posse of television, radio and press reporters in his yard at Greenhils in County Kildare, Walsh outlined the plans for Papillon.

'He was back here this morning at 9am and there's not a bother on the horse, although he has a few old scrapes on his stifles,' Walsh said. 'The only fence where he made a mistake was the Chair.

'He is in the Irish Grand National on Easter Monday, but if he did run again this season, it would probably be at Punchestown instead.

'I have Rince Ri in the Heineken Gold Cup as well as Papillon, but if the ground was quick, Rince Ri wouldn't go there. He probably won't be running in the Irish Grand National either, because I expect him to have top weight.

'I will have a look at Punchestown for Papillon, because the Heineken is a IRpounds 120,000 race that could cut up badly. The horses that ran in the Gold Cup, like Looks Like Trouble and See More Business, won't be coming over and Florida Pearl mightn't run.

'The key to Papillon is good ground, the faster the better really, because it was only when it dried out that he ran a decent race over hurdles at Leopardstown. That persuaded me he was coming back to himself and we decided we might have a crack at Aintree.'

Papillon might not have gone to Liverpool if his owner had not been persuaded to let him take his chance.

'All credit to owner Betty Moran's daughter-in-law Anne, who is Irish and persuaded Mrs Moran to let the horse have a go,' Walsh said.

'I felt Papillon was either going to love Aintree or hate it. He would switch on or off there, so it was a 50-50 chance and I was keen to give it a go.

'It's remarkable that of the 14 horses here in the front yard, we have Rince Ri, my Cheltenham winner of a couple of seasons ago Commanche Court and now a Grand National winner. Yesterday was one of those occasions when our luck was in.'

Referring to the huge volume of support which saw Papillon's odds shrink in the 36 hours before the race, Walsh shrugged off talk of a coup.

'I walked the course on Thursday with Mike Dillon from Ladbrokes and told him I fancied Papillon because the going was drying out by the hour,' Walsh explained. 'He asked me what price I was looking for and I told him somebody was going 50-1.

'Mike came back to me and said he would give me 50-1 and while I'm not going to say how much I had on, you can take it I was thinking ahead and wanted to cover the price of a few drinks and a good party.'

Walsh also spoke of his son Ruby, who partnered Papillon to victory after an injury-plagued season. He said: 'I was proud to have trained Papillon, but twice as proud to have my son Ruby in the saddle.

'It will be a great lift to his career. He was up there on the big stage in Liverpool and he's done it now, as well as winning the bumper at Cheltenham when he was only an 18-year-old amateur, so things fall into place or they don't in this game.

'He had a tough time with injuries, but that is behind him now. Full marks to Ruby for switching his whip hand after Papillon drifted across after the Elbow on the run-in.

'He got the horse balanced and got a few cracks of the whip into him to make sure he would stay in front of Mely Moss.

'My daughter Katie, who is only 15, rides Papillon out as well as young Gary Hutchinson, who has ridden a couple of winners for the yard.

'Papillon is a big scopy horse and a lovely ride, so I often sit up on him myself because he is safe and at 50, I don't feel like taking chances any more.'

Papillon will attempt to become the first horse since Red Rum in 1974 to win successive Grand Nationals - as long as conditions are right.

Walsh added: 'Papillon will be aimed at the National next year as well, though if the ground were soft, you could leave him at home because he wouldn't do a tap on it.

'But now I want to make sure the horse makes it down to the village beside us in Kill for a parade to welcome him home. It should be a good old hooley down there.'
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Title Annotation:Racing
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Apr 10, 2000
Words:801
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