The €500,000 BoyleSports Irish Grand National could well be the race that decides the winner of this season’s National Hunt trainers’ championship and both Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott will be hoping to feature strongly in the annual spectacular at Fairyhouse on Easter Monday, April 17th.
Both men are seeking their first win in what is now the most valuable National Hunt race in Ireland, and Elliott, the season’s leading trainer, has left 21 horses in the race, headed by Lord Scoundrel and Noble Endeavor, Roi Des Francs, his Cheltenham Festival winner Tiger Roll, Ball D’Arc and last year’s runner-up, Bless The Wings. As it stands, with the safety limit set at 30 runners, the majority of Elliott’s remaining entries are unlikely to get a run.
Willie Mullins, the current champion trainer, is responsible for nine of the remaining 74 entries. However, it would appear that only Haymount, third to Gordon Elliott’s Tiger Roll in the Grade 2 JT McNamara National Hunt Challenge Cup Amateur Riders´ Novices´ Chase at Cheltenham is guaranteed a run and that the likes of Blazer, Arbre De Vie and Sambremont will struggle to make the final cut at declaration time at 10am on Good Friday.
Jessica Harrington is another chasing her first BoyleSports Irish Grand National success and the Timico Gold Cup winning trainer has left her smart novice Our Duke, the clear ante-post favourite, in next Monday’s race. Ted Walsh could yet be represented by Foxrock while the 2016 winning trainer Mouse Morris has left five horses in the race with Alpha Des Obeaux, his Grade 1 RSA Novices´ Chase fourth, and last year’s winner Rogue Angel both certain of a run. Noel Meade has left six horses in the race with his Cheltenham Festival winner Road To Respect featuring among the sextet.
Of the remaining cross-channel challenger, Jonjo O’Neill could run his 2014 winner Shutthefrontdoor while Harry Fry’s Fletchers Flyer is another that has done enough to secure a spot in the final line-up.
“We are delighted with the strength in depth of the horses remaining in the €500,000 BoyleSports Irish Grand National”, says Peter Roe, General Manager of Fairyhouse Racecourse.
“It is great to have previous winners Shutthefrontdoor, Rogue Angel and Thunder And Roses along with the exciting Grade 1 winning novice chaser Our Duke. The excitement in the locality is steadily building as we build up to Ireland’s richest ever jumps race. The ground is currently good to yielding and the forecast is for some rain towards the end of the week but we will commence selective watering today in order to produce safe jumping ground.”