Tag Archives: Irish Grand National

Betting Preview: 2018 Irish Grand National

Katie Walsh and Thunder And Roses, winner of the Irish Grand National

Irish Grand National day – a dire day weather wise, if I have a look out of the window. Heavy ground at Fairyhouse – this will be some tough slug! You got to enjoy this type of deep ground and staying is the name of the game.

So, is it smart to be sweet on two horses that do have to prove they can last the National distance? Remains to be seen. Nonetheless, I do fancy Bellshill quite a bit. He would have been interesting for Aintree as well, however, Willie Mullins decided, despite an 8lb penalty for his last win, it’s going to be home sweet home.

Bellshill won the Grade 3 Bobbyjo Chase in February, bypassing Cheltenham for a crack at the Irish National subsequently. Up for debate how much this form is worth. Still, he looked like the trip is certainly no issue and further to that he enhanced his fine record on deep ground.

Off 158 effectively today, I feel this mark could still treat Bellshill lightly. He’s a class act – let’s not forget he finished a good third in the RSA behind Might Bite twelve months ago!

From the bigger prices I also quite like the look of top weight Outlander. Off 11st 10lb it’ll be an almighty uphill task, no doubt, and you have to get back quite a bit in history to find a winner off top weight.

The fact that Outlander was pulled up in the Cheltenham Gold Cup isn’t ideal. On the other hand his runner-up performance in the Irish Gold Cup sets quite a high standard and says he is still worth every pound of his rating.

It is also fair to say Outlander is a different horse at home soil. He’s also enjoying deep ground, though, his stamina, albeit winning form over three miles, will be tested to the limit today.

I quite like the fact that an excellent 7lb claimer is booked, who will take off valuable pounds. Rob James is one of the leading riders on the Irish Point-to-Point scene, so that looks a significant jockey booking.

Selections:
7pts win – Bellshill @ 11/1 VC
3pts win – Outlander @ 40/1 VC

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Our Duke bolts up in Irish National

What a monstrous performance by Our Duke in the Irish Grand National this afternoon. Sensational! This lad has the WOW factor. He was one of three on my shortlist but he was a short enough price given what he did up until now, but you have to say after this performance he actually was a huge price! well hindsight is a beautiful thing….

Anyway, Our Duke was able to track what appeared to be a pretty decent pace, took matter in his own hand from quite a way out and still had a lot left in locker when it mattered most. A potential Gold Cup horse? Absolutely!

It clearly puts the icing on the cake for the winning trainer Jessica Harrington and jockey Robbie Power – both teamed up only a month ago to land the Gold Cup at Cheltenham!

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2.10 Southwell: Class 6 Handicap, 1m 3f

A really poor race in terms of form, though some may find back to their best at a track they ran well in the past. The one most likely to do this is Bushel in my mind.

He is a course and distance winner of a much higher mark. Given he is a son of Street Cry this is no surprise as he has a tremendous record with his offspring at this track.

Bushel hasn’t been winning since 2015, however ran with credit a handful times on turf last season, suggesting he is still not as far of his best, however big marks caught him out. Putting in a couple of stinkers his mark has dropped rapidly to a lowly 57 now.

That comes as a result of 15l+ beaten fifth in a 14f Handicap at Southwell last month. However pretty much no other rival was able to cope with the very well handicapped winner either. It came also over a trip that clearly stretched him.

In fact he was assisting the pace early on and travelled pretty well for most parts but fell apart over 2f out. The drop to 11f will suit and the additional 3lb off the handicap mark will certainly help too.

Selection:
10pts win – Bushel @ 13/2 Paddy Power

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5.05 Newmarket: Class 3 Handicap, 5f

It will be interesting to see how this pans out pace wise with a split not impossible, despite only 11 runners, but I feel the low numbers are more likely to dominate and should be an ideal scenario for Majestic Hero who could be towed in to take it up when it really matters.

He won two races last year, including here at Newmarket and ran with plenty of credit in many more. His form tailed off toward the end of the season after a long campaign, though.

He clearly prefers this type of undulating tracks and acts very well on faster ground, so conditions should be ideal, A mark of 88 is fair judged on what he has achieved and if he can run to this rating here he must go very close with Jamie Spencer taking the ride as he did last year when these two teamed up to land the Newmarket race.

Jamie Spencer, often slated, is however clearly a bonus in the saddle, given there aren’t many that ride this course and distance better. Also Majestic Hero goes well fresh.

Selection:
10pts win – Majestic Hero @ 12/1 Bet365

Preview: Irish Grand National

Last week we enjoyed a spectacular English Grand National at Aintree. This Easter Monday now all eyes will be on the Irish equivalent which is no less a cracking race to witness!

One of the biggest differences is that unlike the Aintree version, the Irish Grand National has been won by a female jockey – it’s the very same one who came closest to win the English National on Seabass in 2012 when finishing third.

Seabass has sadly passed away last week – may he rest in piece – but Katie Walsh has a ride here – however not on her 2015 winner Thunder And Roses but on the six year old Baie Des Iles. Can she do it again? Well, the odds are against here an it looks a difficult task for this young horse, indeed.

The champs of the last two years will find life difficult too. Thunder And Roses for one hasn’t got his head in front since landing the race in 2015 (and winning me a huge pot!). He was pulled up at Aintree, so was Rogue Angel, who got up in a thriller twelve months ago.

No worries for Gigginstown, though, as the powerful operation has another twelve runners in the race to land them the big prize for a third consecutive year!

That says none of them is particularly well fancied, with Cheltenham winner Tiger Roll  the best of the lot seemingly. However the seven year old has to carry a penalty and is a sketchy jumper who may find this test probably beyond him.

Another seven year old owns the position of red hot favourite. Our Duke, a fairly short 6/1 chance with most firms, comes here with a huge reputation on his handicap debut, after winning two of his three career starts over fences, including a Grade 1 in Novice company.

The only time he did not win, he finished a very gallant runner-up behind Disko at the Christmas Festival – form that looks incredibly strong.

Now, though, he has to bring his credentials to this much more demanding test, against seasoned, experienced animals and in a field as big as he’s ever encountered. Our Duke is a talented horse, but to back him at this short price with all these things in mind? I’d rather not.

The two that I like allot: current second favourite Fletchers Flyer and Gorden Elliott’s Noble Endevour.

Harry Fry hasn’t made a secret of the fact that this race has been the long term plan for Fletchers Flyer ever since he won a big Handicap Chase at the Punchestown Festival last year. He obviously handles this type of fast ground, goes well on a right handed track that is to some extend similar to Fairyhouse and he jumps well in a big field.

This still quite lightly raced chaser has seen a racecourse only twice this season. His comeback run is one to put a line through, however a third place in the Grade 2 Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase at Ascot in February is a fine piece of form.

He should come here in tip top shape, certainly fresher than most and could easily find a bit of improvement in these conditions which means his mark of 145 could undervalue his real talent.

Noble Endevour is a bit more experienced and very much race hardened. He looked superb when landing the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas and he followed up with another huge performance at the Cheltenham Festival when third behind Un Temps Pour Tout in the Ultima Handicap Chase.

You always wonder how much energy that must have cost but he had only four starts this season so may well have still something left in the tank. Second highest weight in the race isn’t an easy feast but he should love these conditions as he clearly excels in big fields, his jumping is big and bold, he travelles strongly and the only slight question mark, other than fitness, is maybe the fast ground.

He has shown to handle it in the past, though his very best form comes on slow ground. Given that he usually travelles so strongly through his races I give him the benefit of the doubt.

Selections:
5pts win – Fletchers Flyer @ 11/1 Betfair SB
5pts win – Noble Endeveaur @ 16/1 Bet365

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6.00 Redcar: Class 6 Handicap, 6f

Of course with three year old’s early in the season you can’t be quite sure how the race pans out pace wise, also some go with first headgear to post, suggesting there might be change of tactics for some.

However if you only read through the racing comments for most horses in this field you’ll find only very few did ever race close the pace, let alone lead a field. The majority is held up in rear, dwelt, was slowly away and therefore naturally behind, or at most tracking the race from a midfield position.

I feel this might give a horse a chance that forces the matter. Obvious candidate is top weight Chickenfortea, who has decent form in the book too. However of a revised mark he looks vulnerable to an improver.

This one could be Kevin Ryan’s Backinanger. This las has been up with the pace in his last two starts on the All-Weather where he ran with credit. He was incredibly keen when last seen at Newcastle and couldn’t sustain his effort, though the third place looks good form taking all of that into consideration, even more so as the winner backed up the form subsequently.

Backinanger is still winless, but he makes his turf handicap debut here with fast conditions sure to suit. Interestingly connections opted for fitting cheek-pieces for the first time, something that could help him to focus, be sharp in the finish and be easier to handle in general.

He also hails from a decent family, he also was a late foal which explains why he looked still pretty raw in most of his races up to date. It is therefore fair to assume that he could still improve a bit. A low mark of 57 gives him a good chance here.

Selection:
10 pts win – Backinanger @ 7/1 Bet365

Rule The World Can Rule The Kingdom

Rule The World, runner-up Irish Grand National

3.45 Listowel: Handicap (Class 1), 9f

Heavy going all around at Listowel, we have to feel thankful for the fact that can race, actually. A pretty open looking handicap this is here, but I feel Water Sprite is quite overpriced. She couldn’t make her name count on the beach last week, but return to this track, where she won a CD handicap last season, should help.

She is also proven on soft ground and can stay further where needed. From a good raw she may go out aggressively  and make this stamina count on a tight track where it certainly is no disadvantage to be up with the pace. She has been pretty rubbish in her last three races, but for mentioned reasons should be competitive today, even more so with a decent 10lb claimer in the saddle.

Water Sprite @ 12/1 Coral – 5pts Win

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4.20 Listowel: Kerry National (Grade a Handicap). 3m

Rule The World is a bit an unlucky horse. He travelled so strongly in the Galway Plate the other day, just to slip two out. He would have gone mightily close, one would assume. He has never won over 3m, however he shouldn’t have a problem staying the trip, given he was second in last seasons Irish National.

What adds more weight to his chance: clearly the ground. He is so much better when it’s bottomless. While his mark went up 3lb for the strong Galway run, he has the fine 3lb claim from David Mullins.

Rule The World @ 7/1 William Hill

National Delight!

Katie Walsh became on Monday afternoon the third female jockey to win the Irish Grand National! It was however the first time that female jockey and female trainer were responsible for the big race winner, as Sandra Hughes trains the horse. Her mount, the seven year old Thunder And Roses, travelled strongly throughout and found plenty when it mattered most. He was never too far off the pace but made gradually progress from five out, to be in with a shout entering the home straight. A strong and determined ride by Katie Walsh sealed the deal eventually.

It’s noteworthy that only nine – yes 9 – horses actually finished the race! There was carnage at an early fence, taking out a couple right away, while others had been pulled up throughout the two circuits. The Gigginstown horses however seemed to excel and finished first, second and fourth.

It’s been a wonderful day on Easter Monday, with splendid sunshine and of course great racing. I had the luck to be at Fairyhouse myself to cheer Katie and Thunder And Roses on – it’s been certainly a sweet afternoon as I made this pair my selection for the National (see Preview on this site). And it got even better when Great Minds got up in Cork to win the Listed sprint contest, where he was my 8/1 selection (see preview on this site)!

Preview – Irish Grand National

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Naturally this is a race where you could pick five horses and still may not pick the right one to win. It is that competitive! The conditions at Fairyhouse will ensure that this is a real test of stamina today, not only because of the long 3m 5f trip, but also very much because of the soft ground.

That says spring is in the air nonetheless, and we should have a cracking race in prospect under the pleasant April sun. I could say allot about each and every runner, but will concentrate on the horses that intrigued me most – I had 11 runners short-listed, and cut it down to three horses to follow today.

Thunder And Roses; Katie Walsh – 25/1 

The seven year old gelding had a fair first season over fences. A mud loving hurdler as high as 135 rated, he was always going to be a better chaser potentially and currently rated 136, he could still have a bit improvement left. He was disappointing at Cheltenham where he fell, was a modest third in Grade 2 company before, but won a 3 mile contest at Fairyhouse in impressive style back in January. Now on his Handicap debut, he looks not out off it with a fair opening mark, and this test today and could be what he really wants.

Dogora; Paul Townend – 33/1 

He is only a six year old and is one I’m sure hasn’t shown us all he has got yet. His performance in the Cross-Country Chase at Cheltenham was really good I felt, even though he got a bit tired up the hill. But he was one of the horses affected by the fallers at the second last but he kept going and was by no means disgraced in 4th. It looks like this kind of test is what he wants, so the big field and trip should suit him. He has done well on soft ground in the past and of a mark off 135 he could be dangerous.

Tammys Hill; BT O’Connell – 25/1 

This hunters chaser had a rather light campaign this season and clearly has been kept fresh for the National. He can race off a very fair mark and has class, as he won the Foxhunter Chase two years ago at the Festival. I believe he has the trip in him and he goes well in these kind of ground conditions. He looks in with a big chance.

All three selections 2.5pts Each/Way