Tuesday 17 September 2019

Auvergnat can overcome latest blip to land the Fairyhouse Irish National


Trainer Enda Bolger. Photo: Sportsfile
Trainer Enda Bolger. Photo: Sportsfile
Wayne Bailey

Wayne Bailey

"I hope to break even at the track today, I need the money." (Joe Frisco, American actor, dancer and comedian (1889-1958)

Having been involved in the betting game for more than two decades, I know well that all punters go through good and bad phases.

It's part and parcel of the business, but simply being aware of that fact doesn't make it any easier when you are in the middle of a poor patch, and the past month or so has been particularly rough on my betting bank.

The English, Scottish and now the Irish Grand Nationals (5.0 Fairyhouse, Monday) are not the type of races that you can hope to turn the corner on, especially the latter with just two winning favourites since 1991, so my biggest bet of the weekend will be at Musselburgh, on the flat, discussed later.

Great history

Even though Fairyhouse on an Easter Monday is not the place you want to find yourself trying to dig your way out of a hole, there's nothing like a day out at the Irish Grand National and the big race has a great history, going way back to 1870.

A good day can become a great day out if you can back the winner and I'm going to rely on Auvergnat this year to give me a good run for my money, with early odds of 25/1 making him attractive each-way.

Auvergnat is a minority language in the Auvergne region of France, and while I can't speak a word of that vernacular, money talks in any language and I'd love to get some of my dough back out of the layers' satchels on Monday, ahead of the Punchestown Festival which kicks off on April 30.

Trained by Enda Bolger, Auvergnat was pulled up in the Cross Country at Cheltenham when last seen, and while it's doubtful he would have got near Tiger Roll on that occasion, a line is crossed through that piece of form as it turned out he had cut his leg.

Owned by JP McManus, he's best judged on his previous race over Christmas at Leopardstown where he was a surprise winner of the Paddy Power Chase at 28/1, much to the dismay of backers of McManus's 5/1 favourite Any Second Now.

It was a decisive victory in a competitive race, and while he's often seen over hurdles, he's definitely best over fences and a race like the Irish Grand National could be right up his street, having been scratched from the Aintree Grand National with Bolger unhappy with his rating.

Our Duke was an exception in 2017, but it's usually best to look at horses carrying less than 11st in this race - and the selection sits mid-division here with a rating of 143 for a racing weight of 10st 7lbs. Talented amateur Áine O'Connor also claims 5lbs so, all considered, 25/1 looks to be a pretty good price.

Willie Mullins, who has never won the Irish Grand National, has quite a few entries - the best of which appears to be Pairofbrowneyes, while Gordon Elliott is mob-handed again with Jury Duty among the market leaders.

Ted Walsh's Any Second Now also has strong claims and is definitely one for the shortlist having won the Kim Muir at Cheltenham last time.

As mentioned, my biggest bet of the day is at Musselburgh where Clayton is my idea of a banker in the Follow Racingtv on Twitter Selling Stakes (4.40), priced around 11/10.

A useful sort over hurdles, he went close in some handicaps before being dropped in grade to win a selling hurdle at Fakenham last month for Gary Moore.

This is his first run for Archie Watson and while it's a couple of years since he raced on the level, he was reasonably good in that sphere in his day.

He's now aged 10 but I'm convinced he has some more to offer and on all known form he should have a bit in hand on his five rivals this afternoon.


At Haydock, consider backing Tim Rocco for the Betway Challenger Two Mile Hurdle Series Final Handicap (2.05).

Chalked up at 12/1 in the early markets yesterday evening, Oliver Greenall's seven-year-old was a little out of his depth off 113 in a decent handicap at Ludlow at the beginning of the month, but this looks less tricky and he's down a couple of pounds to 111.

He'd won his previous two races, both handicaps, and I suspect he still has something to offer around these weights.

In a previous life, he was a talented performer on the flat in Germany and a race like this looks within his grasp.

Hijran will probably go off as favourite around 13/2, a progressive mare who won her last two races.

She's up 6lbs for this but continues to improve with every race and is definitely the biggest threat to the bet.

Irish Independent

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