Friday 20 October 2017

'A handicapper is meant to be impartial' - O'Leary to pull his big guns from 'pre-Brexit, post-Brexit' Grand National

Eddie O’Leary: ‘Bemused’ by weights Picture: Sportsfile
Eddie O’Leary: ‘Bemused’ by weights Picture: Sportsfile

Johnny Ward

Gigginstown is unlikely to run any of its three higher weights in the Aintree Grand National in response to Irish runners' treatment by senior British handicapper Phil Smith.

Outlander was ruled out of the April 8 marathon by Gordon Elliott almost as soon as he was named the top weight and Eddie O'Leary, racing manager to Gigginstown, says Empire Of Dirt also won't run and Don Poli is "doubtful".

All three horses - which were in the top four weights given - were allocated a mark 2lb higher than their Irish equivalent, leaving O'Leary bemused.

"Gordon has announced Outlander would not run, the simple reason he was given far too much weight - a higher mark than any horse who ran in the race in recent years," he said.

"He wants to compress the weights so better horses get more of a chance, and that's fair enough. Yet our three top horses got 2lb more from a guy who wants to compress the weights.

"A handicapper is meant to be impartial. What I'd call the National now is a pre-Brexit, post-Brexit handicap."

O'Leary claimed that Rule The World, last year's winner, was retired for the reason that Smith would have given him top weight in the race. "That denied him a chance to come back. He's as sound and as fit as could be.

"We'll run very, very few in the race. Don Poli is doubtful, while Outlander is ruled out. Empire Of Dirt won't go."

O'Leary added that he felt Disko, a Grade One winner on Sunday, "looked more of a JLT Novice Chase than RSA Chase horse", while he reported Stan James Champion Hurdle contender Petit Mouchoir to be in good form. However, neither Yorkhill nor Un De Sceaux is likely to be supplemented for that race, says trainer Willie Mullins.

With the 2015 hero Faugheen and 2016 victor Annie Power ruled out of the Festival's first-day feature due to injury, there has been speculation that Mullins might bring a would-be-chaser back over hurdles to boost his chance in the only one of the four championship races he has won at Cheltenham.

He had spoken of Yorkhill potentially going for the 2018 Champion Hurdle. Un De Sceaux is unbeaten hurdling when running over less than three miles. Both have been nibbled at for the race on the exchanges.

However Mullins, who said he was happy to keep Yorkhill over fences, told the Irish Independent: "I wouldn't think Un De Sceaux will be supplemented, he'll probably stay over fences for the Ryanair Queen Mother Champion Chase. I'd say the Ryanair is most likely and he stays the trip well."

Schooled

Mullins had news on a couple of his potential Albert Bartlett hopes. "All is well with Penhill, he schooled nicely on Tuesday. A decision on where Let's Dance will run will be left very late."

Eddie O'Leary added that Identity Thief would run at Navan on Sunday, having schooled very well recently, and that Apple's Jade would go to Punchestown on Wednesday.

Housesofparliament, which got a cut in Grade One juvenile combat on Sunday, is unlikely to run this season. Last year's Festival winner Mall Dini has gotten a mark of 143 which will get him into the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir, the Irish Independent understands, though he has other options too.

Irish Independent

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