The Irish Grand National is today’s feature race at Fairyhouse and 30 go to post for this valuable and prestigious prize. Willie Mullins has never saddled the winner of his home National but throws seven darts at the board this afternoon although that is five fewer than Gordon Elliot who won his first Irish National just 12 months ago.
Since 2000 only one horse has carried more than 11st to victory – Our Duke in 2017 – and market leader Any Second Now (7/1) who carries 11st today is a must for the shortlist having carried 11st 11lbs to victory in the Kim Muir at the Cheltenham Festival last time for Ted Walsh.
Marginal preference, however, is for Joseph O’Brien’s Shady Operator (5.00) who is 20/1 with BetVictor who are paying 6 places on the race. The selection beat the ill-fated Ballyward on good ground at Punchestown on New Year’s Eve and this lightly-raced sort found the drop back to 2m 4f against him at Cheltenham last time in the Close Brothers’ Chase.
Earlier in the card I hope to see Snow Falcon (4.20) make a winning return having been off the track since winning a Grade 2 at Down Royal in the autumn on good ground. The combination of two-and-a-half miles on decent ground is ideal for Noel Meade’s chaser although connections may not want to give him too hard a race with the Punchestown Gold Cup – for which he is 20/1 at BetVictor – just nine days away.
Wicklow Brave (3.50) has been knocking on the door of late having finished runner up in the Coral Cup at Cheltenham last month. I hope to see him go one better in the Grade 2 Hurdle over 2m 4f for Patrick Mullins and his father.
I will be disappointed if Coeur Blimey (2.40) does not also go one better in the juvenile hurdle having finished second to Pentland Hills in the Triumph Hurdle last time. The winner has since followed up at Aintree and Elliot’s juvenile can confirm Festival running with Gardens of Babylon who was one place and 3L behind the selection last time.
Over to Chepstow and Friend Or Foe (4.20) did not stay 2m 4f at Newbury last time and looks to have a simple task of returning to winning ways in the Novices’ Hurdle for Paul Nicholls and Harry Cobden.
The handicapper has given Lovely Job (4.55) a chance in the 3m Handicap Chase and I feel he can give weight and a beating to likely market leader The Dellercheckout who looks likely to make up into a better chaser than hurdler judged on his Taunton win last time when he looked good value for a 9lbs rise in the weights.
At Fakenham Value At Risk steps up to 3m for the first time for Dan and Harry Skelton as the trainer bids to break 200 winners in the season which finishes on Saturday. If he stays he must go close, but preference is for Minella On Line (3.30) representing Oliver Sherwood. Harrison Beswick takes off a valuable 5lbs.
Only 4 go to post for the £50,000 Sussex Champion Chase at Plumpton and Not Another Muddle (3.00) can reverse recent Fontwell form with Romain De Senam on 2lbs better terms in a cracking little race despite the paucity of numbers. This trip is a quarter of a mile shorter than the Fontwell race last time and that may well be the key this afternoon.
For all your racing odds go to BetVictor.com