It makes sense to be two-handed when betting on the Irish Grand National
The Irish Grand National is Ireland’s most valuable chase and is traditionally run at Fairyhouse on Easter Monday over the marathon trip of 3m5f.
The brilliant Desert Orchid carried 12st to victory and the current Grand National favourite Shutthefrontdoor won it 12 months ago, but it has largely been a nightmare race for punters with several unfathomable big-priced winners, with Liberty Counsel’s 50/1 success in 2013 the most recent kick in the teeth for punters.
With bookmakers betting 10/1 the field we could well see another shock result, but some strong trends provide a possible lifeline for punters and, using them as a guide, it’s clear we’re looking for a lightly-raced improver with a racing weight below 11st. We can narrow the field down even further by concentrating on those horses who ran at the Cheltenham Festival, with four of the last eight winners taking that route and either competing in the National Hunt Chase (4m) or Kim Muir.
All three of the recent British-trained winners – Shutthefrontdoor, Niche Market and Butler’s Cabin – had run in the four-miler previously, and that points to big runs from this year’s National Hunt Chase third and fourth, The Job Is Right and PERFECT GENTLEMAN. The latter has six lengths to make up and the weights are identical, but there’s a suspicion he was ridden more handily than ideal at Cheltenham and he might therefore turn the tables. Prior to that run he had looked seriously progressive in landing his first two chase starts this term, including a Grade 3 at Cork, and when you add all that up it makes him a bet at the current 20/1.
It certainly won’t hurt to be two-handed in such an impossible-looking race, and the other one to back is Ted Walsh’s CHAMPAGNE JAMES. He’s still a novice but that’s been no barrier to success in this race. Indeed, Shutthefrontdoor was the 17th novice to triumph since 1974 and, in common with the previous nine winners, he had raced less than a dozen times over fences. The selection has had just six starts over the bigger obstacles and, while he’s yet to get his head in front, he’s shown more then enough to suggest he has what it takes to win this.
A winner of a bumper and a maiden hurdle, he was always going to make a better chaser and he certainly looked the part when chasing home the very smart Valseur Lido at Punchestown in November on his debut, albeit 11 lengths adrift. He finished no worse than fourth on his next four outings, all over 2m4f or less, but it was his seventh-placed effort in the Kim Muir last time that really caught the eye. Heavily backed into 4/1 favouritism beforehand, he was anchored at the back of the field and, on a day when prominent racers were favoured, he was simply given far too much to do.
More positive tactics are likely to be employed in this race and, while he does have his stamina to prove, he has always given the impression he was running over trips way too short for him. If that was a deliberate ploy by connections they’ve done a good job as he lines up on a mark of just 131, which is very much in keeping with recent winners. The weights look set to rise by at least 10lb but, even so, he’ll still have less than 11st to carry and I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t give us a good run for our money deep into the race.