Ar­bre De Vie could be Na­tional value

The Irish Times - Monday - Sport - - Front Page - Brian O’Con­nor:

Turn­ing the Boyles­ports Ir­ish Grand Na­tional into the rich­est jumps race ever in this coun­try hasn’t at­tracted the ab­so­lute cream of Ire­land’s steeplechasers but a lu­cra­tive Easter Mon­day in the sun still awaits one of the 30 run­ners at Fairy­house.

For var­i­ous rea­sons Ire­land’s top 20 rated horses all skip the ¤500,000 high­light al­though plenty will bet in the be­lief the long-time ante-post favourite Our Duke is a po­ten­tial Gold Cup hero in the mak­ing.

If that’s the case then Jes­sica Har­ring­ton’s strap­ping novice could be a blot on the hand­i­cap es­pe­cially since the Gold Cup-win­ning trainer con­tin­ues to stretch the rich vein of win­ning form she has en­joyed since Siz­ing John brought the house down at Chel­tenham.

Our Duke could even­tu­ally be in a sim­i­lar league. But right now a 30-run­ner hand­i­cap is a big chal­lenge to a novice hav­ing just his fourth start over fences.

Har­ring­ton has just the one hope as she pur­sues a first Ir­ish Na­tional but cham­pion owner Michael O’Leary will see his Gig­gin­stown colours car­ried by al­most half the field as he chases three-in-a-row.

El­liott con­tenders

Eight of O’Leary’s 14 hope­fuls are among the 10 that will be sad­dled by Gor­don El­liott for a race which he too has yet to win but which could put a de­fin­i­tive stamp on his bat­tle with Wil­lie Mullins to be cham­pion trainer.

From the top­weight Lord Scoundrel to last year’s run­ner up Bless The Wings at the bot­tom, El­liott looks to have bases cov­ered. Dou­ble Seven misses out but his owner JP McManus will still be triple-handed as the first re­serve Os­car Knight is set to be get in. McManus also has the 2014 win­ner, Shut­the­front­door, and is chas­ing a fourth win in the race.

Barry Ger­aghty has opted to ride Minella Foru who has had just one run over hur­dles since his 2015 Paddy Power Chase suc­cess and his Naas start was en­cour­ag­ing. He might ap­pre­ci­ate softer ground how­ever.

Wil­lie Mullins is an­other yet to win the Ir­ish Na­tional, but 50 years af­ter his fa­ther Paddy won the first of his four Ir­ish Na­tion­als, there could hardly be a bet­ter time to break his duck and Ar­bre de Vie might rep­re­sent each way value to do so.

That re­quires be­liev­ing Ruby Walsh has picked wrong from Mullins’s three run­ners and the cham­pion jockey’s judge­ment is rarely off al­though he did get it wrong in Sun­day’s Grade One.

Hay­mount ran third to Tiger Roll in the four-miler at Chel­tenham so stamina won’t be an is­sue. Ar­bre de Vie ran in the race but clipped heels and un­seated Katie Walsh as the race hot­ted up.

Ex­treme stamina

Ar­bre de Vie has never won over fences – al­though that fa­mously didn’t stop Rule The World at Ain­tree last year – but has al­ways sug­gested an ex­treme stamina test will suit him. At a big price Ar­bre de Vie could be value in an open race and trans­form the train­ers’ cham­pi­onship in the process.

The rest of Fairy­house’s Easter Mon­day card pre­sents a range of op­por­tu­ni­ties for JP McManus’s team with the hugely promis­ing Sut­ton Place of par­tic­u­lar in­ter­est in the Grade Two hur­dle.

PHO­TO­GRAPH: DAN SHERIDAN/INPHO

Katie Walsh with Ar­bre De Vie.

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