Cheltenham Festival 2017
  • Day 1
    Tuesday
  • Day 2
    Wednesday
  • Day 3
    Thursday
  • Day 4
    Friday

Irish Grand National Pinstickers Guide

Top racing writer and pundit Rory Delargy (@helynsar) is back with his latest blog, and ahead of the Irish Grand National this afternoon, he runs the rule over each of the Fairyhouse runners...

1 Lord Scoundrel  Gordon Elliott - Lisa O'Neill (5) 
Galway Plate hero last summer, and would have shown even better form but for a late fall in the Karry National. Not seen since good second in Grade 2 at Down Royal in November, but this has long been the plan, and top weight not excessive. 

2 Noble Endeavor Gordon Elliott - Davy Russell 
No knocking his handicap form this term, hitting frame in Troytown at Navan and Ultima at Cheltenham, and those efforts sandwich a fine win in the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown. Still on a fair mark.

3 Clarcam  Gordon Elliott - Katie O'Farrell (7)
Has had a hell of a lot of racing over fences for one of his tender years, and busy schedule leaving its mark of late, albeit meeting trouble when well held on last two starts, latest in Grand National at Aintree.  

4 Our Duke Jessica Harrington - Robbie Power 
Hugely promising novice who missed a crack at RSA to wait for this, and  both trainer and jockey are flying high this spring. Ticks lots of boxes on paper, and looks sure to improve for longer trip. 

5 Tiger Roll Gordon Elliott - Donagh Meyler (3)
Aiming to match Commanche Court in achieving rare Triumph Hurdle/Irish National double, and overcame some shocking jumping to win 4m National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham last time. An enigma, but impossible to rule out.

6 Foxrock Ted Walsh - Denis O'Regan
Second in Irish Gold Cup two years ago, but career stalled a bit until switched to hunters at Christmas, winning all four starts in that sphere. That may have bolstered his confidence, but he looks vulnerable back in such competitive company.

7 Roi Des Francs Gordon Elliott - Brian O'Connell 
Back to winning ways at Down Royal last month before running well for a long way at Aintree (almost carried out by loose horse). Legless at finish there, however, and surely this comes too soon.

8 The Game Changer Gordon Elliott - Mikey Fogarty
Unlikely stayer who is a rank outsider based on desperate efforts of late, but worth pointing out he was a single-figure price for a Cheltenham festival handicap last time, and capable of travelling well until stamina ebbs away. One for the in-running brigade perhaps.

9 Tell Us More Gordon Elliott – Chris Meehan (7) 
Big talent, but been held back by erratic jumping, including over hurdles at Cheltenham last time. Stamina another concern, but victory would be a remarkable story for ex-flat apprentice Chris Meehan, who has had his leg broken twice in bizarre circumstances in the last year. 

10 Alpha Des Obeaux Mouse Morris - David Mullins
High-class performer who has had progress over fences hampered by a tendency to burst blood vessels, and easy enough to look elsewhere as a result. 

11 Wounded Warrior Noel Meade - Jonathan Moore 
Looked the ideal type for this when third as a 6-y-o in 2015 RSA at Cheltenham, but has lost his way, and pulled up at Aintree just nine days ago.

12 Minella Foru Eddie Harty – Barry Geraghty
Darkest of dark horses having not run over fences since taking Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown in December 2015. Showed ability was intact in prep run over hurdles at Naas in January, and the subject of positive vibes, so merits plenty of respect.

13 Thunder And Roses Mouse Morris – J J Slevin (5)
Won this race in 2015, and clear signs of a revival this spring; still travelling well when wiped out by a loose horse in Aintree showpiece last weekend, and chances if this doesn't come too soon.

14 Abolitionist Ellmarie Holden - Rachael Blackmore (3) 
Rookie handler Ellmarie Holden landed a double at Cork on Sunday, and she has a live contender in Abolitionist who has the beating of Noble Endeavour on Troytown form, and improved further to win Leinster National last time despite the ground being softer than ideal. Would cap a tremendous season for Rachael Blackmore, who is firmly on course to be champion conditional rider.

15 Baie Des Iles Ross O'Sullivan - Katie Walsh
Thorough stayer who made all to win Grand National Trial at Punchestown in February, but all her form  over fences has come in the mud, and ran poorly at this track on most recent outing.  

16 Fletchers Flyer Harry Fry – Noel Fehily
Best effort over fences came over this sort of trip at Punchestown a year ago, and lightly raced since. Not a vintage Reynoldstown he was third in last time, but better expected, and clearly laid out for this contest by shrewd handler. 

17 Shutthefrontdoor Jonjo O'Neill – Mark Walsh
2014 winner of this race who picked up an injury at Aintree the following spring, and hasn't looked the same horse subsequently. Would be Jonjo's finest feat if he could get him to repeat former glories here. 

18 Measureofmydreams Noel Meade – Dylan Robinson (5)
Massive chance if taking his third in last season's National Hunt Chase at face value, but confidence shot to pieces since falling in Scottish Grand National a year ago, and already struggling when unseating at halfway in the Grand National at Aintree last weekend.  

19 Raz De Maree Gavin Cromwell -  Ger Fox
Gavin Cromwell deserves credit for getting this veteran back to his best during the winter, and departure at Becher's in last weekend's Aintree Grand National not his fault, but ran poorly here last season, and lacks the pace to mount a serious challenge on forecast ground. 

21 Haymount Willie Mullins – Ruby Walsh
Defied lengthy odds when third to Tiger Roll in Cheltenham 4-miler last month, and sound jumping will stand him in good stead here, so bears consideration for powerful trainer/jockey combination. 

22 Stellar Notion Henry de Bromhead – Andrew Lynch
Another seeking compensation after failure to complete at Aintree, and fair to say that run was too bad to be true, but easy to have stamina reservations about this free-goer, even if in forgiving mood.  

23 Rogue Angel Mouse Morris – Barry John Foley (7)
Stopped quickly at Aintree last weekend, and opposable on that basis, but last year's winner had shaped well for a long way there, and isn't the forlorn hope that his form figures suggest, assuming he's recovered from recent exertions.

24 Arbre De Vie Willie Mullins -  Paul Townend
Lightly raced novice who was alongside stablemate Haymount when clipping heels and unseating after third last in National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham last month, so needs respect, for all his stamina isn't assured.

25 Dedigout Gordon Elliott – Conor Brassil (5)
Mud-loving staying hurdler whose form has been patchy in recent times, and didn't go a yard back over fences behind Roi des Francs at Down Royal last month.

26 General Principle Gordon Elliott – Bryan Cooper
Bryan Cooper chooses him over roughly half a million other Gigginstown contenders, which is clearly a recommendation of sorts; won a weak Grade 3 last time, and balance of form leaves him with something to find, but completely unexposed as a stayer, so could have plenty more to offer.

 27 Bonny Kate Noel Meade – Sean Flanagan
Thoroughly likeable mare who split Abolitionist and Noble Endeavour in Troytown at Navan in November, but not matched that since, and stopped as if shot between final two fences of Leinster National last month. Bit to prove now.

28 First Lieutenant Mouse Morris – Andrew Ring (3)
Looks very well handicapped on pick of his form, but that script could have been prepared for every one of his runs in handicap company in last couple of seasons, and sad  to see this once brilliant chaser in decline. 

29 Sambremont Willie Mullins – Danny Mullins
Hit and miss these days, and while his second to Baie des Iles at Punchestown in February reads well enough, his runs either side of that do not, and lively ground unlikely to help his cause.

30 Bless The Wings Gordon Elliott – Jack Kennedy
A testament to Gordon Elliott's brilliance as a trainer – looked exposed and arguably regressive after three season over fences with Alan King, but gradually revived by current yard, and went agonisingly close in this last year. Runner-up in pair of cross-country events at Cheltenham this season, and has the assistance of the mercurial Jack Kennedy here. Shortlisted. 

31 Oscar Knight Tom Mullins – Mark Enright 
Left previous form behind when winning at Navan in December, and good third in Paddy Power behind Noble Endeavour next time, without convincing with his stamina over three miles. Fair run over hurdles last time, but stamina doubts remain. 

Verdict:
1.    Abolitionist
2.    Our Duke
3.    Bless The Wings

Our Duke could well be out of the top drawer, and deserves his place at the head of the market having been kept fresh for this, but preference at the early prices is for Abolitionist, who was always tanking when winning the Leinster National and should do better still on quicker ground. Bless The Wings is long in the tooth, but retains all his enthusiasm, and last year's runner-up can make the frame once more.
 

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