Irish Grand National Preview

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THE BOYLESPORTS IRISH GRAND NATIONAL (Handicap) 3m 5f (Soft/Heavy)
Fairyhouse 5.00pm
Monday 2nd April 2018

Of the 30 horses confirmed in the Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse worth (Euros) 270,000 to the winner, Gordon Elliott is responsible for a staggering 13 of them while W P Mullins has 4 entered. It’s hard to believe but neither, Elliott or Mullins has ever won the race, despite having 43 runners between them in the last 10 years!

It is not just the prestige of gaining their first winner of Ireland’s richest race at stake but of greater significance is an opportunity for Elliott to clinch the trainer’s title or Mullins to eat into the half a Million Euro prize winning advantage Elliott has, prior to the start of The Meeting!

As for my idea of the winner, both trainers have Horses at the head of the market and this is of significance as it effectively means they are controlling the weights, as half the field are 1-4lbs out of the handicap proper!

Historically anything in the ratings bracket of 130-136 would more often than not be in the winners enclosure but things changed last year with Our Duke being rated 153 and the new trend could be set to continue with the class horses nearer the head of the weights and with so many out of the handicap.

All 4 of Willie Mullins’ entrants are in the Handicap and I’ll start off by taking 3 of the 4 I think could be in the shake up.

The winner needs to act in the ground, and stay every yard of the trip.

Prices are correct at time of writing – 31st March 2018 – 10:30am

BELLSHILL W P Mullins 8/1 generally

Bellshill is near the top of the weights because he is one of the class horses in this field. He has won a Grade 1 Hurdle and a Grade 2 Novice Chase and was placed behind none other than Might Bite in last Year’s RSA at The Festival. He appears to have been targeted at this race, only having had the one run when the Winner Of The Bobbyjo Chase. Winners of this race have prevailed in The Irish National. The slight reservation is his weight has gone up 8lbs as a result!

PAIROFBROWNEYES W P Mullins 7/1 generally

Pairofbrowneyes is another of Mullins’ who picked up a penalty for winning a Handicap Chase. He is 9lbs higher for winning at Gowran Park. However, this was his first run for the Mullins yard and was formerly with Barry John Murphy, Liz Doyle and L Byrne, yet despite 26 accumulative runs for all 3 parties, he was only ever tried beyond 2m 4f once, before W P Mullins trained him to win over nearly 3m in Heavy Going. He has to be on the shortlist simply because Mullins may have found the key to him and he is totally unexposed over the trip.

ISLEOFHOPENDREAMS W P MULLINS 14/1 generally

Isleofhopendreams was run down by Folsam Blue in The Irish Grand National Trial at Punchestown. Islofhopendreams jumped to the front over the last and looked all over the winner until Folsam Blue came back at him and came back up his inside to win going away. Isleofhoendreams has been raised 5lbs by the Handicapper and Folsam Blue has gone up 9lbs. Whichever of these 2 you fancy, the other won’t be far away.

FOLSOM BLUE Gordon Elliott 10/1 generally

Of Gordon Elliott’s runners, as previously mentioned, I like the chances of Folsam Blue. Last Year’s winning Jockey and The Sponsors Ambassador, Robbie Power is an interesting jockey booking. He was Favourite for the Grand National Trial at Punchestown and looked every inch a stayer who acts in the ground, so ticks all the boxes.

MONBEG NOTORIOUS Gordon Elliott 10/1 Generally

Monbeg Notorious was The winner of The Thystes Chase at Gowran park off a mark of 137. His revised mark of 150 meant they were pretty much forced to run in a Grade 2, which he won from 3 other runners but the way the weights are controlled by Ireland’s top 2 National Hunt trainers, he could prove to be well suited by the race conditions. He has gone up another couple of llbs but Jack Kennedy takes the ride, which is significant. He can be described as an improving Novice, who have a decent record in this race, none more so than Our Duke, who turned last years race into a procession! The comparisons are not too dissimilar except Monbeg Notorious has slightly more experience going into the race. It’s astonishing, really that Our Duke’s win was his 1st run in a Handicap and only his 4th outing over fences whereas Monbeg Notorious comes into this having already run 5 times over fences and this will be his 2nd start in a handicap.

SQOUATEUR Gordon Elliott 14/1 Generally

I have to give a mention to Sqouateur who ran well to finish 3rd in The Kim Muir, which has also proved a fruitful source of winners of this race. I feel if he had jumped more fluently he could have bustled up the winner but based purely on this race, he shouldn’t really turn the form around with the runner up, Mall Dini, who gets into this race along with Sqouateur off the same mark but Sqouateur is 4lbs out of the weights which effectively means Mall Dini is 4lbs better off for the 5 length margin.

MALL DINI Patrick G Kelly 8/1 Generally

Should one or both of The Top 2 Trainers have to wait another year to break their duck in the race, then Pat Kelly may well be the man to scupper their plans by providing the winner in Mall Dini. For this horse to get in off the same make as when finishing a gallant runner up to Missed Aproach in The Kim Muir is a tip in itself, providing his exertions have not taken too much out of him.

SNOW FALCON Noel Meade 25/1 Generally

Another who deserves a mention at a much bigger price is Snow Falcon, who I also feel is unexposed over the 3m 5f trip. He is 8lbs lower over fences as his hurdles mark is 157 and his trainer was quoted as saying…. “he jumps fences better than he jumps hurdles” ….so gets in off a lovely racing weight of 10st 10lbs! He has experienced back problems in the past so if they’ve overcome these issues he could be ridiculously well handicapped. The Ascot Stakes on The flat and The Stayers Hurdle at Punchestown have been past targets so that should give every indication connections have always felt he would stay.

In Summary, I have always felt one of Elliott and Mullins has to break their duck in this race. I have found it difficult to split Folsom Blue and Monbeg Notorious from Gordon Elliott’s yard and I would love Willie Mullins to close the gap on Gordon Elliott during the course of this meeting, so I am hoping Bellshill has the class to carry his big weight to victory.

This is such a competitive race, I am unlikely to invest heavily on the outcome but I am aware Boylesports, who are The Sponsors Of The Race, are offering Each Way for the first 6 Places, hence a small amount of my hard earned may be on Bellshill, Each Way at 8/1 generally, unless I can find some better value elsewhere (not having shopped around as yet).

What they say

Gordon Elliott

“It’s a race I’d love to win and we went close with Bless The Wings a few years ago. I could run ten or 11 in it. Outlander will run at the top of the weights, while Folsom Blue, Monbeg Notorious and Dounikos are others who you’d like to think would have some sort of chance.”
Elliott said: “We haven’t decided if Bless The Wings will have another shot at the race. He’s also in the Randox Health Grand National but will need a few to drop out. We’ll think about it between now and declaration time for the Irish National on Friday.”
Three of Elliott’s acceptors – Outlander, Dounikos and Squouateur – ran at the Cheltenham Festival. The first-named pair were pulled up in the Gold Cup and the RSA Chase respectively and Squouateur finished third in the Kim Muir Chase.

“The three who ran at Cheltenham seem in good form and are intended runners. Rob Jones will claim 7lb off Outlander, who has top weight,” Elliott said.
Monbeg Notorious, winner of the Thyestes Chase in January, the 2016 Galway Plate winner Lord Scoundrel and Folsom Blue, who landed the Grand National Trial at Punchestown last month, will also be in Elliott’s team.
Like Elliott, Willie Mullins has yet to train an Irish National winner. He has six in the top 30, including Bobbyjo Chase winner Bellshill, and Pairofbrowneyes, who won the Leinster National on his first start for Mullins at Gowran Park this month.
The pair are 8-1 joint favourites with the race sponsor ahead of Monbeg Notorious, on 10-1, and Kim Muir Chase runner-up Mall Dini and Folsom Blue on 12-1.
Elliott confirmed Cheltenham Festival winners Shattered Love and The Storyteller are intended runners in the Grade 1 Ryanair Gold Cup at Fairyhouse on Sunday.
The ground at Fairyhouse remained soft to heavy on Wednesday and the forecast for the next few days is unsettled.
The final declaration stage for the Irish Grand National is on Friday morning.
Ireland trainers’ championship leader Gordon Elliott has 13 of the 30 runners engaged in the Irish Grand National on Easter Monday.
Elliott, who is seeking a first title as he battles old rival and perennial champion Willie Mullins, has declared Thyestes Chase winner Monbeg Notorious, Dounikos and Folsom Blue as he aims to win the race for the first time.
Gigginstown, which last won the Fairyhouse showpiece in 2016 with Rogue Angel, own a third of the field, with ten set to run.
Bellshill, who made a winning return to action last month in the Bobbyjo Chase last month, is one of four for Mullins in the race which has so far eluded him.
The Mullins-Elliott domination is total in the Grade 1 Ryanair Gold Cup, with the two trainers responsible for the nine declared on Friday morning.
Shattered Love, winner of the JLT Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival and Plate winner The Storyteller head Elliott’s four entries, while Mullins runs five including Al Boum Photo and Invitation Only.
Laurina, who stormed to victory in the mares’ novice hurdle at Cheltenham, is one of five runners for Mullins in the Grade 1 mares’ novice final on Sunday.
Martin Pipe winner Blow By Blow faces Pallasator and six others in the Grade 2 2m4f novice hurdle.

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