In recent years the Irish Grand National hasn’t been a good race for punters, with five of the last six winners returning at an SP of 25/1 or bigger. It’s wise to expect the unexpected in the Fairyhouse spectacular and I reckon it’ll be much the same in this year’s renewal on Monday.
Initially I was drawn to Cause of Causes who ran such a fine race in defeat in the Kim Muir at last month’s Cheltenham Festival. However, I’m not entirely convinced that Gordon Elliott’s charge will relish this searching stamina test and he’s gone up 6lb for that gallant effort at Prestbury Park.
Conversely, two at bigger prices that are almost certain to be in their element over this marathon trip are GOLDEN WONDER and LOS AMIGOS, both of whom can be backed at a tasty 20/1 with Ladbrokes at the time of writing.
Dessie Hughes hasn’t had much luck in the Irish National since Timbera struck for the County Kildare handler in the 2013 renewal. But in Golden Wonder, who beat the smart Spring Heeled on his chase debut at Galway last summer, Hughes has a very intriguing candidate this time round.
The eight-year-old has clearly been laid out for this race. He ran in a couple of novice chases early in the season and shaped really well when returning from a five-month break here 15 days ago, finishing fourth in a competitive 19-runner handicap won by Jupitor.
Though upped 2lb for that, Golden Wonder remains unexposed over fences following just four runs in this sphere, and he shapes as though this step up in trip will be the catalyst to further improvement. The drying ground is also a plus as far as the gelding’s concerned.
Los Amigos boasts a similar profile to Golden Wonder. Like that horse he’s only had four starts over fences and also has a nice racing weight – 10st 4lb – which is an asset in the Irish National as the statistics suggest: only three horses have carried 10st 12lb or more to victory in this race since 1996.
Jim Dreaper’s charge ran a fine race for an inexperienced novice when chasing home On His Own in the Thyestes Chase at Gowran in January and subsequently finished a creditable third behind Gallant Oscar at Naas, a rival he will meet on 10lb better terms on Monday.
I feel that Los Amigos is a better horse going right-handed in any case, and his prominent style of racing will be a help in this 30-strong field. He’s almost certainly capable of better still as a chaser and I envisage him running a big race.
Los Amigos’ stable companion Goonyella was well fancied for this contest 12 months ago, but he was pulled up after his saddle slipped. Granted better luck this time he could emerge as a major player, as could Home Farm who was third home in this race last year.
Dour stayer My Murphy, the Jonjo O’Neill-trained novice Shutthefrontdoor, leading hunter chase Tammys Hill and Daring Article, who also promises to be suited by this marathon trip, are all worthy of consideration, too, in a typically open renewal.