The Irish Trainers’ Championship between Gordon Elliott and Willie Mullins is reaching its climax and Easter Monday’s Irish Grand National could prove pivotal to who wins it.
There’s €500K total prize money on offer, with first prize alone coming in at €270k abd between them, they train 13 of the 30 runners with Elliott saddling 10 – eight of them for Gigginstown House Stud.
Neither trainer has won an Irish Grand National before and there’s no guarantee that either will have the winner this year. For all their firepower, they don’t look to have a real ‘stand-out’ performer in the field.
I ride Haymount, who finished third on his last run in the four mile amateur race at Cheltenham. He’s a novice chaser, they’ve a great record in the Irish National and he should appreciate the drying ground at Fairyhouse.
He was fairly free-going at the Festival and took a keen hold, but I’m hoping he’ll be more relaxed back on home soil.
However, he has a lot of ground to make up with the winner that day, Tiger Roll.
While Gordon’s runner now got plenty of weight to carry after that win and his Munster National victory earlier in the season, he has definite each-way claims in a race where Paddy is paying the first 6 home.
Bryan Cooper had the pick of Gigginstown’s 14 runners and opted for General Principle. He’s another novice but has to improve to win this.
There’s a few coming here straight from the Aintree Grand National and that’s not ideal. Some, like Raz de Maree and the 2015 winner here Thunder and Roses didn’t get very far so it mightn’t have taken too much out of them. But Stellar Notion, Wounded Warrior and last year’s champion here Rogue Angel all looked to have hard races.
You’d have to be concerned that this 3m 5f contest may come too soon for them.
There’s others who look to have a better chance, on paper at least, including market leader Our Duke. Jessica Harrington’s exciting novice dodged Cheltenham and sets the standard here.
The stable are flying and his jockey Robbie Power is on a phenomenal run. The concern with Our Duke is that he has snuck up the weights and the ground will probably be as quick as he’s raced on all season.
Lady riders have won two of the last six Grand Nationals with Nina Carberry guiding Organisedconfusion home in 2011 and my sister, Katie, winning on Thunder and Roses two years ago.
Rachael Blackmore looks to have a fair chance of joining that club and rides Abolitionist, who was a good winner of the Leinster National and should appreciate the better ground.
Mouse Morris won both the English and Irish Nationals last year and his novice Alpha Des Obeaux was fourth in the RSA Chase and could be a player.
Minella Foru is lightly raced for Eddie Harty and is a former Paddy Power Chase winner. Barry Geraghty has picked him over his former Irish National winner Shutthefrontdoor – even though he looks to have been trained specifically for this race again.
The one I think has a great chance is Fletchers Flyer. I won a novice hurdle on him at Ascot in 2014. He’s guaranteed to stay the trip, having won at last year’s Punchestown Festival over 3m 6f for Harry Fry and Noel Fehily.
It’s an intriguing race, especially given the trainers championship this year, but this English challenger could just gatecrash the party.