It’s Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse where I have two selections plus an extra treat from Cork.
Yesterday saw Bitofapuzzle (3/1) win really well. She is a likeable mare and made a good-looking field look ordinary. Victory in the race gave trainer Harry Fry his first Grade 1 success.
Apache Stronghold was a faller in a race that Gilgamboa won, something I wouldn’t have called, while Call Me PJ only ran into 7th behind Sir Scorpion, which gave AP McCoy a double.
The racing is rather hectic with nine meetings and staggered starts, so it will be a long afternoon with the quality being at Fairyhouse.
Noble Endeavour (4/1) comes into this off the back of a second in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham where he was beaten by a rallying Killultagh Vic. He swept up the inside on the bend to challenge for the lead but didn’t quite have enough to hold on however today should be different. Despite a 7lb rise for that effort at Cheltenham he will still receive weight from the older horses, which should help this six-year-old. Robbie Colgan is back on board as he was at Punchestown in January for a win over this distance. There could be more improvement to come against these better rivals, which makes me keen on him especially after Cheltenham, as long as it didn’t take too much out of him. Back in December 2013 he beat Windsor Park, who went onto win the Neptune Hurdle at Cheltenham suggesting he does have quality.
Dedigout is the obvious danger stepping down in trip and should be able to confirm the form against Zaidpour for there last meeting in the Ireland Boyne Hurdle (Grade 2) at Navan last month. 11-year-old Thousand Stars returns from an absence of 302 days and could have the quality to win this despite said absence but lack of race fitness an issue.
Aetna (7/4) was a selection on Lincoln Day at Doncaster but was a non-runner because of the ground. Today she will get the preferable soft ground over in Ireland and that is the reason Michael Easterby has sent this smart mare across the Irish Sea. As I put that day for her race at Doncaster, she went into my tracker after her win at York against 19 rivals and came from stall 20. She stays on well late, something she proved last time out when winning on heavy ground at Doncaster to beat Lancelot Du Lac by 2 and three-quarter lengths. This race doesn’t seem to have the quality as some of the races she has won in England plus the booking of Joseph O’Brien is a positive, if he can make the weight and is fine after his fall when riding over hurdles at Fairyhouse yesterday.
Great Minds ran eight days ago and could be the main danger being race fit. An improving five-year-old whose mark rose from 77 to 96 after two wins and a fourth last time out, who should enjoy the ground. At a bigger price is one that I think will be behind Aetna. Flight Risk should pose more of a threat than Gathering Power from stall one.
5:00 Fairyhouse: Irish Grand National
The big race of the day and it is a good way to start the countdown to our own Grand National on Saturday. My two selections are both priced fairly after good runs at Cheltenham and worth consideration at each-way prices.
Firstly The Job Is Right (16/1) who was fourth in the Toby Balding at Cheltenham over 4m, so has proven stamina for this race. He was beaten by Cause Of Causes, who is aimed for the Grand National at Aintree, and Broadway Buffalo, a horse progressing well. He was ridden prominently throughout at Cheltenham and his jumped was sound bar just one slight error. After leading at the last he didn’t manage to run on but held on for third, so this 3m5f trip should be more suitable. In January he unseated in the Thyestes at Gowran Park (won by Djakadam) when travelling really well, if it wasn’t for the unseating he could easily have ran into a place that day so it is worth chancing with the grey, who was also fourth in the Paddy Power Chase. Mark Enright is back on board as the race at Cheltenham was an Amateur Jockeys race.
Grand Jesture (18/1) was second behind The Druids Nephew, a well-fancied Grand National contender at Cheltenham in the Ultima Business Solutions Handicap Chase. He is another runner who will be kept prominent throughout and should stay the extra 4f here from his run last month and his jumping should help him to make his way around the course untroubled. He has raced twice at the track previously where he was second behind Los Amigos on his debut over the larger obstacles but did win his second chase here last January. The course form is a positive, as he has won on this ground previously so no concerns there.
Cantlow is the favourite, all for the McCoy fairytale in his final Irish National. However he is too short for not winning in his last nine races, the last saw him pulled up at Kempton. The application of a tongue-tie should aid his breathing over this longer trip where he finished eighth last year but looks vulnerable at the price.
Los Amigos looks well-handicapped and is dangerous while Vics Canvas, who was third (ahead of The Job Is Right) in the Paddy Power Chase, is unexposed over fences and is one that should go well at the track and over this distance. Tammys Hill is one at a bigger price that could prove a threat in this race after his exploits in Foxhunter Chases over distances close to todays. 2012 winner Lion Na Bearnai, now 13-years-old, is in the field for the race but has struggled of late and a quick reappearance might be too much to ask for this ageing gelding.
Watch out for my Grand National preview piece early this week before the Aintree meeting gets underway on Thursday.