Aint it a shame!
Can Ireland end their Grand National hoodoo? Tony Keenan's not sure.
Aintree and the Grand National understandably dominate the racing horizon in April though Irish trainers could be forgiven for affording the race scant attention with our recent poor record. Silver Birch was the last Irish-trained winner in 2007 while only three of our horses have made the frame in last five renewals and eighth was the best we could manage behind Many Clouds last year.The bookmakers seem to expect a similar outcome in 2016 with the shortest-priced Irish runner available at as big as 20/1.
That horse is Goonyella who shaped with plenty of promise in the Leinster National at Naas in early March; he stays really well,one of very few in training that needs four miles to show his best form, but the concern is the track as he has unseated and been beaten 45ls in his two goes over the National fences. Don Poli holds a high position in the market but is an unlikely runner for all that his trainer thinks the race will suit while dual Irish Gold Cup winner Carlingford Lough just doesn’t jump well enough and if he does get around it will likely be a long time after the rest.
Tony Martin’s Gallant Oscar has been trained with the race in mind all season and there were signs of life from him in the Naas race that Goonyella ran second in when he was a staying on fifth. There are two big doubts with him however; his stamina is far from assured while his stable have been going through a torrid time in 2015/16, operating well below their typical level in previous years.
I suspect UCELLO CONTI is the besthandicapped of the Irish horses going into the race; he has shaped well under moderate rides in both the Paddy Power and Thyestes Chases, particularly the latter when he raced much too wide the whole way, made a premature move and jumped the two of the last three fences poorly. That form looks solid with the second Mala Beach about to win a Grade 2 before falling next time.The concern with him is that the best-handicapped horse rarely wins the race – it tends to come down to the animal that handles the test best – but he’s worth taking a chance on at decent odds with his trainer stating this race has been his long-term aim.
Mouse Morris could have two runners but First Lieutenant is a long time without a win while Rule TheWorld is a very dubious stayer, his seemingly good effort in last season’s Irish National coming in a race that was decimated by fallers. Of other the Mullins entries, On His Own never seems to have taken to the big fences, falling in both his National runs, while Sir Des Champs is a shadow of his former self. Boston Bob is probably the best of Closutton horses and showed his wellbeing in the Bobbyjo Chase last time; he has at least won at Aintree, albeit over the Mildmay course.
Fairyhouse host their Easter Festival between March 27th and 29th which is hard against the Cheltenham Festival; there are just nine days between the meetings. That makes the Cheltenham horses opposable here as a general rule regardless of how they ran; those that did well will invariably have had a hard race while those that ran poorly or even failed to complete will still have had to travel over and back the Irish Sea.With that in mind, I’ll concentrate on those Irish horses that