Aint it a shame!

Can Ire­land end their Grand Na­tional hoodoo? Tony Keenan's not sure.

Racing Ahead - - IRISH RACING -

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

Don Poli

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