Confidence in the John Smith's Grand National bid of Imperial Commander is growing with the prospect of reasonable ground conditions at Aintree this week.

The Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained 2010 Cheltenham Gold Cup hero was only recently committed to the race, where he will carry top-weight.

The 12-year-old will be having just his second start since being pulled up in the 2011 Gold Cup, his first being when second in the Argento Chase at Cheltenham in January.

Paul Costello, who manages the owning Our Friends In The North syndicate, said: "We're 100% going for the National now.

"He's in great shape and we schooled him over the National fences last week.

"He's telling us he wants to go for it, and that's what we shall do.

"We've had so many disappointments this season, we just wanted to take our time and make sure everyone was on the same page - there was no need to make the decision too soon and hopefully he'll do us pround.

"It would take a miracle for the ground not to be decent at the weekend so it's all systems go."

"These horses are so well looked after. Better than some children, to be honest with you.” – Katie Walsh launched an impassioned defence of National Hunt racing in a Radio Times interview

Katie Walsh has launched a staunch defence of the race, which will once again be under intense scrutiny from welfare groups.

Walsh, who finished third on Seabass 12 months ago for her father, Ted, to achieve the best placing yet by a female jockey, said the horses are treated better than "many children".

She is set to ride the same horse again, with her brother Ruby Walsh partnering likely favourite On His Own.

Walsh, 28, told the Radio Times: "Any changes that make it safer are a good thing, but I hope they leave it at this and don't change anything else.

"I hope to God there are no accidents this year, but these things happen, and they are horses at the end of the day."

She said: "I don't mean that in a cruel way, but to see (fellow jockey) John Thomas McNamara get a horrible fall at Cheltenham... for the minute he's gone from the neck down, and that's a different deal altogether in my eyes."

Walsh said that those who criticise racing as a cruel sport do not understand it, telling the magazine: "Anyone who gets up on Christmas Day and mucks out loves animals. Sure, it's a dangerous sport. But every night, all over the world, a lot of horses are left out in fields starving.

"These horses are so well looked after. Better than some children, to be honest with you.”