With Gordon Elliot in charge of 13 of the 30 runners in the Irish Grand National – with in my view at least six of them in with very little chance of winning – the question has to be raised do we need to have a restriction ruling on the number of runners a trainer can have in this famous event?
It seems that flooding the race with so many entries purely to aid in the pursuit of the trainer’s championship has to be questioned, as it comes at the expense of smaller training operations that may have horses with better chances of competing for this massive prize.
As far as the race is concerned, this could be one of the most gruelling renewals ever with heavy ground and some more rain set to hit the track.
Bellshill is the main unexposed young chaser in the line-up having won nine of his 17 races under rules and being three from five over fences. He exuded pure, unadulterated, undiluted class when landing the Bobbyjo Chase at the track over an extended three miles in February.
He may only have an extra half mile to travel here, but that race was run at a very conservative pace and this will be a much deeper slog. He could very well outclass his rivals as Our Duke did last year, but at 8/1 I would much rather look elsewhere for a bit of each-way value.
In contrast, the speedy figure of Pairofbrowneyes’ win at Gowran Park in the Leinster National was excellent and that came on very deep ground.
A 9lbs penalty was possibly a bit harsh, but now that the Mullins’ stayer has found his domain there could be plenty more to come in this likely slugfest.
Folsom Blue and Monbeg Nortorious both relish these conditions and I couldn’t put any of you off supporting them but the second string to my Irish National bow is going to be the much vaunted Squouateur (12/1).
This flatter track is much more his domain than Cheltenham and although the handicapper hasn’t exactly been kind on him for his failings in the last 12 months, this extreme test will suit him perfectly judged on his staying on effort in the Paddy Power Chase over Christmas.
Finally, if you are looking at a big priced outsider, then Sutton Manor could well fit the bill. His undoubted stamina is finally going to be put to good use over a marathon trip for the very first time and it is worth remembering he was travelling with ominous ease in the aforementioned Leinster National when coming to grief at halfway, he looks a real dark horse here at 33/1.
* All odds correct at time of posting.