Our expert takes a look at the key runners in the massive Irish Grand National ante-post market and picks out a runner who could provide punters with excellent each-way value.
The Irish Grand National may not offer the same riches put up for grabs by the English version, which takes place at Aintree just a week before. Yet, in Ireland, it holds an incredibly high level of prestige and it provides the winner with a chance of launching themselves into the horse racing history books.
Fairyhouse has played host to the Irish Grand National for almost 150 years, having first staged this three mile, five furlong handicap way back in 1870. The great Arkle won this prize in 1964, two years before another one of Ireland’s greatest chasers, Flying Bolt carried a crippling weight of 12-7 right into the winners’ enclosure.
) etched his name into the illustrious roll of honour in the Irish Grand National, alongside Desert Orchid and Bobbyjo, when he claimed this title for Mouse Morris last season. The reigning champion, along with last year’s gallant runner-up, Bless The Wings
) look set to return to Fairyhouse looking to put in similarly impressive displays. Both recorded season's best performances on their last appearances and they have been treated rather kindly by the handicapper, so it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see either perform well once again. Rogue Angel was going well in the Grand National at Aintree before weakening over the final half miles and pulling up before the third last. Bless The Wings didn't make the cut in Liverpool, but there is such strength in depth in this year’s Irish Grand National, it would be a big ask for Elliott's teenager to repeat last year's finish.
Several other Aintree Grand National entrants feature prominently in the Fairyhouse betting; Cause Of Causes
) ran a wonderful race but had to settle for second behind One For Arthur; Gas Line Boy
) belayed his long odds, finishing strongly to sneak the fifth and final place; Ruby Walsh did tremendously to keep his place in Pleasant Company's
) saddle, after his mount made a race-ending mistake on the final circuit and the pair eventually came home ninth; poor jumps lead to Ucello Conti
) and Measureofmydreams
) ejecting their jockeys from their saddles during the first circuit, whilst Raz De Maree
) was too fired up at the start and his race didn't last particulaly long. The likelihood of any horse attempting the Grand National double is extremely slim, so it's unlikely any of them will feature after the final stage of declarations.
Jessica Harrington’s Our Duke
) will hope to carry the tag of favouritism to victory at Fairyhouse, securing an incredible big race double for his trainer, following her stunning triumph with Sizing John in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Harrington’s seven-year-old held off Coney Island to land his maiden Grade 1 title in the Neville Hotel’s Novices’ Chase just after Christmas and came within two lengths of repeating that feat on his last outing, but narrowly lost out to Disko in the Flogas Novices’ Chase last month. He was forced to miss at a tilt at the RSA title at Cheltenham with a minor injury, but he should be nice and fresh on his second visit to Fairyhouse.
Mall Dini (centre, green white cap) on his way to winning the Pertemps Final at Cheltenham last season.
) was fancied by many to repeat his 2016 Cheltenham Festival heroics in the Pertemps Final, but taking victory in the Kim Muir Challenge Cup. He may have failed to secure a second Festival title, but he continued his encouraging seasonal form with a solid fifth place finish, coming home just two lengths behind the winners. That Cheltenham win last year remains his latest victory, but he’s been running and finished well all season and, with a weight of just 10-1, he looks extremely well handicapped.
Gordon Elliott has been in stunning form this season and he boasts an incredibly strong hand as he attempts to win the Irish Grand National for the first time around his local course. Outlander
) struggled home last in the Gold Cup after an error-strewn run and he has been burdened with top weight as he looks to return to winning ways. Empire Of Dirt
(28/1 Paddy Power
) was heavily backed to topple Un De Sceaux in the Ryanair. He could only manage a fourth place finish at Cheltenham and things didn't get any better when he returned to a longer trip at Aintree. After two highly disappointing spring Festival performances, it's highly doubtful he will line up in this year's Irish Grand National.
) acquitted himself well at the Cheltenham Festival, finishing strongly to come home third in the Ultima Handicap Chase, just over two lengths behind the winner. He will go to post eleven pounds lighter than the weight he carried so well at Cheltenham and he looks to have an excellent chance of continuing his strong seasonal form with a big Fairyhouse victory.
Despite his countless winning achievements over the last decade, Willie Mullins has never managed to land the Irish Grand National title. Arbre De Vie
(20/1 Paddy Power
) is his highest placed runner in the betting, but whether he is suited to this mammoth trip is questionable. The Crafter Butcher
(16/1 Paddy Power
) is also prominent in the betting and could be a danger, but whether he will make it into the race on a lowly rating of 135 is unlikely. Mullins’ best chance at finally breaking his Irish Grand National duck could be with Haymount
), who powered up the Cheltenham hill from near the rear of the field to finish third in the National Hunt. The trip won’t cause him any problems and he will bring some strong seasonal form with him to Fairyhouse as he bids for glory off a favourable weight.
English raiders don’t have the best record in the Irish Grand National, but that hasn’t stopped the likes of Harry Fry and Sandy Thompson entering two of their stable stars into the Fairyhouse festivities. Fletchers Flyer
) won a huge handicap at last year’s Punchestown Festival and Fry’s nine-year-old will carry almost a stone less at Fairyhouse as he looks for another big victory on Irish soil. Seeyouatmidnight
) comfortably saw off Bristol De Mai in a two horse race earlier in the season. He finished a strong second off top weight in a Class 2 handicap hurdle at Kelso in his pre-National prep run a week ago and he has the quality to run well again on his first ever trip to Ireland.
) has only appeared once this season, finishing fourth in a strong Grade 3 behind Sutton Place at Navan. During the early months of last season, Edward Harty’s charge finished second in a big handicap here at Fairyhouse, before beating Ucello Conti and Gilgamboa to the Paddy Power Chase Handicap title at the 2015 Leopardstown Christmas Festival. If his injury problems are behind him, he could be a strong contender.Tiger Roll jumping the last en-route to winning the National Hunt Chase title at Cheltenham last month.
) followed up his 2015 Triumph Hurdle win with a stunning victory in the National Hunt Chase, recovering well from several jumping blunders to storm home on his maiden attempt at a trip over three miles. If that Cheltenham excursion hasn’t taken too much out of him and he can tidy up his jumping a little, he has the quality to land a second successive major festival trophy.
Ellmarie Holden has enjoyed an excellent debut season in the training ranks and the in-form Abolitionist
has to be given a strong chance of victory here at Fairyhouse. Two solid runner-up finishes behind Definite Soldier and Empire Of Dirt were followed by a maiden victory over fences, beating Folsom Blue to the highly-lucrative Leinster National title at Naas. He may currently sit someway down the entries list, but Rogue Angel won this title off a rating of 137 last season and he is more than likely to make the final cut.
Alpha Des Obeaux
) tried to stay with Might Bite in the RSA, but dropped tamely through the field as the pace quickened again going down the Cheltenham hill. Willie Mullins' Bellshill
) stayed on very strongly that day to come home a creditable third behind Might Bite and Whisper. He looks to be much better suited to this 29 furlong trip than Alpha Des Obeaux, but Mouse Morris has an excellent record in this race and his charge cannot be discounted.
Brown Advisory Plate winner, Road To Respect
) has been in excellent form this season and sits at a very inviting price. Bonny Kate
) and fellow female, Baie Des Iles
) have both been running well in big handicaps this season and represent definite each-way value. However, after FOXROCK’S
) connections decided the Irish Grand National was higher on their agenda this season than the National at Aintree, he has to be considered the best each-way bet of the race.
Ted Walsh chose to skip an outing in the Foxhunters Chase at Cheltenham to focus on a tilt at either of the Nationals. A former perennial Grade 1 and 2 performer, Foxrock has taken well to the switch to Hunter Chases, carrying twelve stone to victory on his last four outings. The last horse to win this race carrying more than eleven stone was Ted Walsh’s Commanche Court in the year 2000, so Foxrock’s weight of 10-10 gives him a very good chance of putting in a good performance.
At just nine years old, Foxrock has a few years ahead of him to target the Aintree Grand National and the Foxhunter Chases at the big spring Festival – but, for now, the Irish Grand National is set firmly in his sights and he has every chance of coming away from Fairyhouse with a massive victory.
17/4/2017 5:00pm Fairyhouse Irish Grand National selection - FOXROCK each-way (20/1 Ladbrokes)