Sport Horse Racing

Saturday 27 May 2017

O'Leary set to run 'a couple' in National as row rumbles on

Third Opinion enjoys a session in the pool at Gordon Elliott’s yard in Longwood, Co Meath where the highflying trainer yesterday opened his stable doors to the media ahead of the Cheltenham Festival. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Third Opinion enjoys a session in the pool at Gordon Elliott’s yard in Longwood, Co Meath where the highflying trainer yesterday opened his stable doors to the media ahead of the Cheltenham Festival. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Johnny Ward

Gigginstown may run "a couple" in the £1m Grand National at Aintree and it is the Irish equivalent at Fairyhouse that is to benefit most from its disagreement with Phil Smith.

Racing manager Eddie O'Leary has refused to back down in the operation's commitment to take out its best entries in the most valuable jumps race in Europe.

Don Poli, Aintree favourite until Michael O'Leary said he would not run, is set to go to the Gold Cup - Jack Kennedy, 17, to ride - and then Irish National. Outlander and Empire Of Dirt, two other high-profile Aintree entries set to be pulled out this week, may also go to Fairyhouse​.​ ​

Eddie O'Leary told the Irish Independent he will not enter their better horses in the race until British handicapper Smith's operation is more transparent.

"The handicapping in Britain of Irish-trained horses is a cloak-and-dagger affair. As we saw when he was interviewed on At The Races, Phil Smith completely disregards the Irish handicap system; it is irrelevant, he says.

"He's perfectly entitled to handicap Irish horses as he sees fit and there is nothing personal at all about this. All we ask is that, as he says he spends 18 hours a week on Irish runners, he publishes the ratings weekly.​

"We'll take out most of our 16 from the National this week. We'll run a couple from Thunder And Roses, Rogue Angel, Wounded Warrior, Measureofmydreams and Road To Riches, I'd say."

Gordon Elliott is to enter around 30 in the Irish National - the maximum field in the race. He is to bring a similar number to Cheltenham, he said at his yard's Festival launch yesterday.

Irish Independent

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