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The Irish Grand National – a Galway view

Peter O'Tool

Peter O'Tool

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If you want to protect your wealth, the Irish Grand National is a race best watched rather than a sensible betting opportunity. However, sensible is boring and it is much more fun to have a few small bets and hope that at least one of yours is in contention as they approach the last.
The best horse in the race is clearly Paul Nolan’s LATEST EXHIBITION but this is a handicap and, in the absence of Tiger Roll, he carries top weight of 11st 10lbs. Only one horse, Our Duke, has carried more than 11st to victory in recent history and you have to go back to Flashing Steel in 1995 and Desert Orchid in 1990 to find horses who have won carrying as much as, or more, than Latest Exhibition’s burden. For him to win he will need to be even better than his mark of 153 – and I think he probably is. He is a good jumper, comes to this fresh and has an able pilot in Bryan Cooper. So he is the right favourite but, based on the historical trends, his price is pretty skinny.

Staying with the weight trends, it is eye-catching that 16 of the last 17 winners carried 10st 13lb or less and if you were to believe that the trend will be followed this year, that removes the top fifteen on the card. That still leaves plenty of choices and I want to be with horses that have previous experience of Fairyhouse and, of course, the focus is on those who ran to, or close to, their mark. This leaves me with RUN WILD FRED, OPPOSITES ATTRACT, FITZHENRY and BRACE YOURSELF.
Run Wild Fred has clearly not been missed in the market which is hardly surprising given that he is Jack Kennedy’s choice from three powerful Cullentra House entrants. He is 9lbs better off with stablemate COKO BEACH compared to The Theystes where he was a 4l second which further explains the enthusiasm among his backers.

Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised if Coko Beach comes out on top again despite the market signals. He is only six years old and is clearly progressive – as he showed when winning a Graded race at Navan. I also note that one of Captain Kneesup’s expertly thrown darts have landed on this good looking grey – he normally avoids them in order to hedge the family punting so this is a highly significant selection by the Longcot legend. On the negative, Coko Beach is pretty high in the weights and the ground conditions might not suit him but at 14-1, he looks decent value. The third Cullentra entrant is ESCARIA TEN and is very interesting as a handicap debutante in first-time cheekpieces.

OPPOSITES ATTRACT is one I really like at a big price. He is a handicap debutant and may well be on a very generous mark. The worry is his jumping which is a little sketchy but, if he makes it round, he has a great chance based on his form – particularly a decent second to Assemble on this course last November. That was on heavy ground and, as a son of Gold Well, there is a concern that today’s conditions will not suit him as well. However, he is a good each-way punt.
FITZHENRY finished strongly to be a decent third behind Scoir Mear in the Leinster National, a run that indicates that today’s test might suit him well – as does his breeding. He is clearly Paul Nolan’s stable second string but he is a sound jumper and has a good chance of a place.
I have had a decent each-way punt on BRACE YOURSELF at 25-1 and I am encouraged to see that he has been backed into 14-1 this morning. There are no stamina doubts with this eye-catching chestnut son of Mahler and he seems to be flexible when it comes to underfoot conditions. He is trained by Noel Meade (who also runs EUROBOT – one with a featherweight who might run into a place) and this race has been the target for quite some time. Brace Yourself lacks a bit of toe but is a strong traveller and will be suited by this test – he may well represent a wily piece of placing by the master of Tu Va stables.
It strikes me that I haven’t mentioned any of Willie Mullin’s entrants. Given the red hot form of the stable, it would be foolhardy to not run the eye over them – BRAHMA BULL, SALSARETTA, AGUSTA GOLD, DRAGON D’ESTRUVAL and ROBIN DE CARLOW. All of them have a chance and it would be a surprise if none of them makes the first six. The preference is for Paul Townend’s choice Agusta Gold. Townend is injured but Danny Mullins steps in and the jockey change is not a concern. Rachael Blackmore is on Robin De Carlow while Dragon D’Estruval is a silly price at 100-1.

J P McManus has five runners with OFF YOU GO the most likely to be a contender. There are several more worth mentioning especially MOYHENNA – a tough and consistent mare. However, my two against the field will be…

OPPOSITES ATTRACT and BRACE YOURSELF.

Good luck to all.

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