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.
5pts win – Fletchers Flyer @ 11/1 Betfair SB
5pts win – Noble Endeveaur @ 16/1 Bet365
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.
10 pts win – Backinanger @ 7/1 Bet365