Irish jockey Fran Flood will have his first ride in the Martell Grand National on Hollybank Buck for trainer Tony Martin. Flood, 30, had his only experience of the Aintree fences in the John Hughes Trophy last year when he finished down the field on Finchpalm, trained by his father Francis.

He chalked up one of his biggest wins on Hollybank Buck in the 1999 Eider Chase at Newcastle and he said: “I also won the Pat Taaffe Chase at Punchestown on him and I expect he will give me a great spin in the Martell Grand National. I am looking forward to the ride.”

“When I rode in the John Hughes last year it was a big thrill and it will be great to be involved in the Martell Grand National on Saturday. I aim to fly into Liverpool on Thursday night so I will have plenty of time to walk the course with Mr Martin.”

Last year Hollybank Buck finished 10th behind Papillon and Martin said: “He seems to be in good form and we are very much looking forward to coming over to England to get some racing after our long hold-up here with the foot and mouth.”

Michael Hourigan has snapped up the services of Philip Hobbs' conditional jockey Robert Widger for Inis Cara in Saturday's race.

“He's in good form and goes well fresh but he likes heavy ground, the Irish trainer said. “He's never fallen - he's pretty safe. He has a good racing weight and I don't think the trip will bother him. He has a good each-way chance.” (PA)

Filed by Sinéad Kissane