Our resident racing expert runs through his top tips for 2012 Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse, as Allee Garde and Four Commanders lead the betting for this prestigious race.
The Easter holidays mean many different things to different people, aside from just its origins as a religious celebration. It can mean putting up shelves, escaping for an early-spring weekend away or, if the calendar falls right, a dream weekend of sport. The only constant so far as the last of those goes is the Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse, run on Easter Monday every year and usually offering a punting challenge surpassed only by a precious few races through the season.
The Cheltenham Festival has offered clues to the race in the past, and the Mouse Morris-trained Four Commanders is fancied to continue that trend this year. He’s a novice, but belies that with fine jumping which saw him placed in a number of graded races prior to finishing a close third in the four-miler at Cheltenham. Four Commanders (10/1) tends to lead, and that will be harder to pull off in a race of this nature, but he’s an unexposed chaser who’s to be respected.
Allee Garde (10/1) was more fancied than Four Commanders at Cheltenham, but he fell before the race began in earnest. He’s also managed no better than places in good novices this season and yet will have to concede 4lb to Four Commanders should they clash on Monday, so it’s not difficult to come to a conclusion on who the better treated is.
Top owner JP McManus always sends a strong team to Fairyhouse, and many of his squad this time around also ran at the recent Cheltenham Festival. Most significant among them are Alfie Sherrin (12/1) (won JLT Speciality Chase) and Catch Me (runner-up in the Pertemps Final), but if there’s one meeting McManus targets more than Fairyhouse it’s Cheltenham in March, so you can’t help but feel these horses have had their ‘cup final’.
The progressive Cross Appeal (14/1) has as strong a claim as any on form, with his last two runs coming in the Troytown (third to Groody Hill) and the Paddy Power (won from Grand National hopeful Treacle). He’s had this race on his agenda ever since, while Organisedconfusion last year proved that the Irish Grand National isn’t too stern a test for six-year-olds, so it seems to be all positive on the proviso that Cross Appeal stays. That’s a pretty big ‘if’ though, especially considering he seemed all out when winning over three miles last time.
A couple lower down the list also catch the eye. Some Target was only a place behind Cross Appeal in the Troytown and has since suggested he’s a marathon chaser worth siding with when travelling menacingly through the Grand National Trial at Haydock before the heavy ground possibly found him out.
Our Victoria also has form that ties her in with one of the market principals, only half a length behind Four Commanders at Cheltenham last time. That was her first try beyond three miles and she seemed to relish it. On that run she’s at least as well treated as the favourite and therefore looks a value option.
Here’s my top tip for the 2012 Irish Grand National:
With the market for the Irish Grand National not subject to the long-term scrutiny of its Aintree cousin, things are still to fully take shape. You can beat the possible rush by taking both Some Target and Our Victoria now, the pair attractively priced at 25/1 and 20/1 respectively. With such value secured, painting the spare room this Easter weekend won’t seem quite so arduous.