To put it mildly, this afternoon’s Boylesports Irish Grand National has not been a kind race for favourite backers…
In fact, since 1999 the annual Fairyhouse spectacular has turned into a veritable bookmakers’ benefit, as market leaders have turned in the following form sequence: 6P0PP006P24U3PP.
As you’d expect for a race with a prize fund of €250,000 Easter Monday’s traditional 3m 5f handicap puzzle takes some solving, and in the last 10 years we’ve been treated to winners at 20/1, 25/1, 33/1, 33/1, 33/1, 33/1 and to top the lot … a 50/1 shot in Liberty Counsel 12 months ago!
Furthermore, there’s been just one winning jolly since way back in 1991!
That said, there are some more powerful trends that could be used to gain an advantage:
17 of the last 20 winners of the race shouldered less than 11 stone
In the last decade no winner went into the race rated in excess of 136
Novices have done the business 16 times in 40 years
In the last 10 years no winner of the Irish National had previously had more than 12 runs over fences
9 of the last 10 winners had won over at least three miles
At the time of writing a trio of horses are fighting it out at the top of the market, with top hunter chaser Tammys Hill an intriguing contender to take the prize to Northern Ireland, Arthur Moore’s Home Farm five pounds higher than when third in 2013, and the well gambled Shutthefrontdoor for JP McManus, Jonjo O’Neill and Barry Geraghty.
The McManus silks make up an extraordinary 20% of the 30 runner field, with the six runners spread across five trainers: Alfie Sherrin (also Jonjo), Cantlow (Paul Webber), Cause Of Causes (Gordon Elliott), Pendra (Charlie Longsdon), The Westerner Boy (Colm Murphy).
There is also overnight cash around for a runner in the colours of another high profile owner, with the Rich Ricci-owned Touch The Eden making waves on the betting exchanges as he chases a hat-trick in the hands of Paul Townend.
However, it may be that both McManus and Ricci are frustrated in their efforts, as another familiar face on the Irish National Hunt scene – owner Barry Connell – throws his hat into the ring with lively outsider Sraid Padraig.
Trained locally in Meath by Tony Martin (who won this race back in 2001), Sraid Padraig conforms to plenty of the key stats, and won very well at Fairyhouse (2m 1f) on similar ground at the end of November.
His racing weight of 10st 6lbs is well below the 11 stone ceiling, his rating of 135 looks perfect, he’s a former Point to Point winner with seven chase starts under his belt, and unlike a number of shorter priced fancies Good ground appears to be his absolute optimum.
The big question is whether or not the petrol will run over over this marathon trip given that his only three mile win to date was in a Dromahane Point to Point in 2011, but under rules he’s only had two runs at three miles or further so it’s far too early to try and judge conclusively either way.
Those risk aside, few would begrudge the likeable and softly spoken Connell a big prize after the cruel loss of Our Conor at Cheltenham, and at 20/1 each way Sraid Padriag could well give him a big run here.
Monday’s bet in the Irish Grand National: