Apologies for no Mull It Over Blog today. In the meantime here is an article from The Irish Field about net weekend’s Fairyhouse showpiece:
Champion trainer Willie Mullins and champion owner JP McManus dominate the entries for this year’s Ladbrokes Irish Grand National.
The 2013 Fairyhouse Easter festival was launched last Tuesday at the yard of last year’s winning trainer Tom Gibney in Drumbarragh, Co. Meath.
The meeting which has its traditional highlight on Easter Monday, the €250,000 Ladbrokes Irish Grand National, takes place this year from 31st March to 2nd April and opens with the 63rd running of the Powers Gold Cup, one of the longest continuous sponsorships in Ireland.
The Easter Monday showpiece is one of the only big races on the Irish racing calendar to have eluded the champion trainer to date but, fresh from his top trainer accolade at last week’s Cheltenham Festival, that box could be ticked this year.
Back In Focus (pictured) will be a leading player if he takes his chance in the race. Graham Wylie’s horse put up a big performance to land the National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival last Wednesday and, if Mullins determines that he has recovered sufficiently from his exertions there to take his chance at Fairyhouse in two weeks’ time, he’ll be prominent in the betting. As will Boston Bob, who also represents the Wylie/Mullins combination. The son of Bob Back could well have won the RSA Chase at Cheltenham last Wednesday had he not fallen at the final fence, and he had earlier battled on strongly to land the Grade 1 Dr PJ Moriarty Chase at Leopardstown last month.
It is another Mullins representative, Quel Esprit, who heads the weights. The son of Saint Des Saints also has the Aintree Grand National as an option five days later but, should he stand his ground at Fairyhouse, he would be a high-class top weight. Winner of the Grade 1 Hennessy Gold Cup in 2012, he shaped encouragingly for a long way in this year’s renewal of the Leopardstown race last month on his seasonal debut. He should improve for that run, and his Irish National rating of 157 is 1lb lower than his official rating.
Alfie Sherrin heads a strong JP McManus representation. The 10-year-old gelding has only run three times since he finished third in last year’s renewal of the Ladbrokes Irish Grand National, and he ran a fine race to finish fourth in the Kim Muir Chase at Cheltenham last Thursday. His handicap rating of 135 is 1lb lower than the mark off which he raced at Fairyhouse last year, and that gives him a big chance.
There are many other interesting entries in what is shaping up to be a fascinating contest. Rich Revival is one. Liz Doyle’s horse has won all three of his races since he returned in December from a 20-month spell on the sidelines. A 7lb hike for his recent Naas win may not be that harsh, and he won his beginners’ chase on his only run at Fairyhouse.
Realt Mor is another. Gordon Elliott’s horse put up a remarkable performance to win his beginners’ chase over two and a half miles at Navan two weeks ago, setting off in front and just going further and further clear before winning, eased down, by 25 lengths from some useful fellow maiden chasers. A handicap rating of 141 is just 6lb higher than his peak mark in Britain and, a full-brother to 2011 Powers Gold Cup winner Realt Dubh, his stamina is unproven but he will be a player if he takes his chance.
The Gigginstown House horse Magnanimity was pulled up before the final fence in last year’s Ladbrokes Irish National, but he had run well until he made a bad mistake at the second last fence. The Dessie Hughes-trained gelding comes into the race in better form this season, his yard is in fine form, and he ran well on his latest start to finish second to Call The Police over an inadequate two and a half miles at Clonmel.
The Conor O’Dwyer-trained Competitive Edge, owned, like Alfie Sherrin, by JP McManus, is interesting despite a 14lb hike for winning impressively at Gowran Park last time. He is another who has to prove his stamina for this three-mile-five-furlong marathon, but he is an exciting prospect.
Alfie Sherrin heads a six-strong entry from Britain that includes the David Pipe-trained Junior, winner of the Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle last December, and the Jonjo O’Neill-trained Lost Glory, not seen in public since he won a handicap chase at Chepstow last October, while other entries of note in a star-studded cast include National Hunt Chase runner-up Tofino Bay, Thyestes Chase winner Jadanli, Galway Plate winner Bob Lingo, Bobbyjo Chase winner Roi Du Mee, Leopardstown Chase runner-up Sweeney Tunes and last week’s Kim Muir third Romanesco.
The list of entries for the feature race on Easter Sunday, the Grade 1 Powers Gold Cup, is comprised of some of the top Irish novice chasers who featured at Cheltenham last week, including Arvika Ligeonniere, Baily Green, Lyreen Legend, Aupcharlie, Boston Bob, Marito, Texas Jack, Benefficient and Alderwood, with some of the leading novice chasers who didn’t make the trip, including Mount Benbulben, Mikael D’Haguenet, Buckers Bridge, Dedigout and Oscars Well, potentially lying in wait.
The first day of the meeting also features the inaugural running of the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares’ Novice Hurdle as a Grade 1 contest, in which Willie Mullins’ recent Naas Grade 2 winner Annie Power sets a high standard.
Peter Roe, manager at Fairyhouse, said: “The ground is currently soft and more rain is forecast. There will be fresh new ground used each day and the track for the Ladbrokes Irish Grand National has not been used this winter and we’re hugely excited by what could be a high class field. We are confident that with the depth and quality of our entries for the remaining races over the three days that it should be our best Easter Festival ever.”
Hayley O’Connor from Ladbrokes said: “This is our third year associated with Ireland’s premier handicap chase and after a truly spectacular Cheltenham for the Irish contenders, the quality and depth to this year’s field has the ingredients for a vintage renewal. We’ve entered a golden era for Irish National Hunt racing and some of the jewels in our crown will be on show at the Fairyhouse festival.”
Ladbrokes Irish Grand National prices: 8 Back In Focus, 8 Alfie Sherrin, 10 Boston Bob, 10 Lost Glory, 10 Romanesco, 10 Tofino Bay, 12 Carlingford Lough, 12 Ninetieth Minute, 12 Realt Mor, 12 Rich Revival, 12 White Star Line, 14 Boston’s Angel, 14 Dedigout, 14 Home Farm, 14 Murchu, 14 Roi Du Mee, 14 Sweeny Tunes, 14 Terminal, 14 Treacle, 14 Vesper Bell, 16 Alderwood, 16 Deal Done, 16 Junior, 16 Marasonnien, 16 Outlaw Pete, 16 Panther Claw, 16 Rapidolyte De Ladalka, 20 bar (1/4 odds 1,2,3,4).
Mull it Over recommends: Murchu @ 14/1 (e/w).