Irish Grand National 2018 Preview

By Samantha (2/4/18)

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Outlander (right) has a good chance despite a huge weight. 

This year’s renewal of the Irish Grand National is a very open one. Last year it was won by Our Duke from Jessica Harrington’s yard. The top two trainers, Gordon Elliot and Willie Mullins, have over half of the field between them. Elliot has thirteen horses in the race and Mullins has four. Who will take the honors this year?  

Outlander has top weight of 11st 10lbs and he is the highest rated in the field at a mark of 163. A Lexus Chase winner, he was pulled up in the Cheltenham Gold Cup after a good run in defeat behind Edwulf in the Irish version. He has a good amateur on board who takes off 7lbs. Similarly, Bellshill has to carry a big weight. He won the Grade Three Bobbyjo Chase last time over 3m 1F by four and three quarter lengths. He is held in high regard and is likely to go off at the top of the market but there are questions about the trip. Lord Scoundrel unseated his rider in that race whilst fading.

Monbeg Notorious is looking for his fifth win in a row. He fits some of the trends of recent years- he’s seven and carries less than 11st. He won over 25f in January on heavy ground in the Grade A Thyestes Handicap Chase. Thunder And Roses was behind on that occasion and Isleofhopendreams was pulled up. Thunder And Roses won this in 2015, partnered by Lisa O’Neil who rides today, when he was trained by Sandra Hughes. Now with Mouse Morris, he hasn’t shown much at all this season. He was pulled up on seasonal debut behind Presenting Percy and then was eighth behind Cheltenham Gold Cup third Anibale Fly and then fourth behind Monbeg Notorious. He hasn’t finished on both runs since and looks up against it. General Principal was fifth in this race last year, one place behind Thunder And Roses. Lisa O’Neil’s mount is better off in the weights but General Principal, who is to be ridden by JJ Slevin, brings better form to the table and can reverse the places this year. Both seem up against it. General Principal was forth behind Folsom Blue in a handicap Hurdle in November.

Pairofbrowneyes is an interesting runner. He won the Leinster National on his first start for Willie Mullins. He’s a bit of an unknown quantity regarding trip and how good he is. Robbie Power, winning jockey last year on Our Duke, rides Folsom Blue. He won the Grand National Trial at Punchestown in February. Carrying 10st 3lbs, he will run off a nice weight and his recent form is good. Isleofhopenddreams was second in the Grand National Trail and showed a big improvement in form after being pulled up on both other runs this season.

Mall Dini and Squouateur we’re both well backed for the Kim Muir at Cheltenham but they were second and third respectively. Mall Dini was favourite for the race after running well without winning all season. Squouteur’s best result this season before his Cheltenham run was third behind Anibale Fly and Ucello Conti in the Paddy Power Chase over around three miles. He has an each way chance. Also at Cheltenham, Bless The Wings had a horrid fall in the cross country chase at Cheltenham. He’s a course and distance winner and he has won over further than this. DOUNIKOS has my tentative vote. He was pulled up behind Presenting Percy in the RSA but, before that, he beat Monbeg Notorious in a beginners chase in November on heavy and won a Grade Two on Boxing Day on similar ground to today’s. He is a definite each way contender if he can stay. His full brother was second over three miles but no other siblings out of his dam ran over this trip. Smad Place won over 3m 2f And is a half brother to him.

Snow Falcon looks a nice horse but may not handle the trip. Kemboy and Oscar Knight have good chances. Kemboy was forth in the JLT and Oscar Knight is coming back from running over hurdles.

Verdict

I think Dounikos has a good chance for Gordon Elliot and I like Outkander despite his big weight. He’s extremely gutsy and it would be good to see Edwulf’s form franked.

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