Monday 18 December 2017

Here is who our experts are tipping in today's Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse

The Boylesports Irish Grand National is off at 5pm at Fairyhouse
The Boylesports Irish Grand National is off at 5pm at Fairyhouse

The BoyleSports Grand National is off at 5pm and we will bring you all the action from Fairyhouse throughout the day. Here is a run down of who our experts are backing from the Meath track today.

Johnny Ward's Boylesports Grand National preview

Much of the chat about the BoyleSports Irish National this afternoon has been how Gigginstown and Gordon Elliott have such an apparent stranglehold on the race - but the €500,000 heat might end up going to a raider.

Elliott accounts for a third of the 30 declared, while Michael O'Leary has 14. The numbers, however, are somewhat misleading: ten of the 12 outsiders in the wagering are Gigginstown-owned, just two of the front dozen in the market running in maroon.

For commentators, this race is clearly about as bad as it gets, with many of the Gigginstown runners liable to be ridden prominently. So too will Fletchers Flyer in all probability, and he can enhance an impressive record of British-trained steeds in the National.

The incredible Irish handicappers' performances at Cheltenham would suggest that the British-housed inmates should struggle over here. However, from the past ten renewals, three have gone across the water, and Harry Fry has clearly had his eye on this monstrous pot since Punchestown last April.

This race is becoming really classy, and is likely to become increasingly attractive to novice steeds: even though it seems questionable that horses bereft of experience ought to be considered the archetypal National winner, the pot is huge and they have more scope to have a few pounds in hand.

That will bring us shortly to the ante-post favourite but let us talk about the selection. Because of his only chase win coming in that Punchestown heat last season, Fletchers Flyer was still a novice in his homeland this term.

That was the horse's second win at Punchestown. On the first occasion, he beat Sub Lieutenant in a bumper. Interestingly, Sub Lieutenant is now rated 162 over fences, and Fletchers Flyer may have a bit to spare off 145.

In high-end handicaps, you generally get horses weighed to their best or very close. Thus, those with fewer trips to the gas station are all the more intriguing, and what was taking about his Punchestown success last year was that he was taken on early for the lead, yet jumped superbly and found plenty.

Oscar Sam deserves to be favourite and will probably win Grade Ones as a senior chaser. There are a couple of negatives, though, especially the ground - Jessica Harrington has said he needs a little soft ideally in the description, and it is hard to imagine the conditions being especially easy after the dry weather, notwithstanding any watering.

The other is his inexperience and his tendency to make a mistake or two, yet he is getting there with combat. He is a gorgeous, old-fashioned chaser, and if he can get into his groove close to the pace, he should take a bit of beating.

Gigginstown are more about quantity than quality here. It could have been a race made for Don Poli, which is unfortunately sidelined, and the chances are Bryan Cooper is on the wrong horse, but if you pick from 14 we are talking about the law of averages.

Cooper steers General Principle, which escapes a penalty despite winning twice coming here. His jumping is still a bit iffy at times, yet he could certainly be a threat off his low weight.

Tiger Roll, which did plenty wrong in Cheltenham's four-miler but still won, cannot be discounted, despite his obvious kinks, while his rider last month, Lisa O'Neill, has a lively each-way player in top weight Lord Scoundrel.

The ladies like the National, with recent wins going to Sandra Hughes, Katie Walsh, Dot Love and Nina Carberry. If Harrington or O'Neill fail, Ellmarie Holden and Rachael Blackmore could have the answer in Abolitionist, which has no ground concerns whatever and has been a revelation for Holden.

It is a race that cannot but compel and everyone can look ahead to it with relish - with the exception of those who have to commentate on it.

JOHNNY WARD'S National verdict

1: Fletchers Flyer

2: Our Duke

3: General Principle

4: Abolitionist

PATRICK MULLINS'  National verdict

1: Haymount

2: Our Duke

3: Tiger Roll

4: Abolitionist

LISTEN: get all the inside information with our Fairyhouse Podcast



Race-by-race guide to the rest of the day's action

2.45 Rathbarry & Glenview Studs Hurdle 2m

A high-calibre renewal of the race, with Jezki taken to show that although he did not stay the trip in the Stayers' Hurdle at Cheltenham, he still has something to offer over the minimum distance.

For so much of that race he seemed as good as ever under Robbie Power, only to stop from the second-last. Barry Geraghty now returns to the fray.

At level weights, he should have too much for Hidden Cyclone, which ought to give it a good go from the front. Stars Over The Sea was a really smart horse on the Flat and it will be intriguing to see how he is measured in the wagering, as he could cause a mild surprise. Verdict: Jezki looks the class act and the trip is more suitable here.

3.15 Grade Two Avoca Dunboyne Juvenile Hurdle 2m

Ex Patriot looks the obvious starting point here. Hailing from an in-form stable, he ran a blinder in the Triumph Hurdle in fourth - a laudable effort as he got loose before the race - and he should be difficult to beat.

Long Call, which struggled in the Fred Winter after travelling quite well, has a bit to prove, as does Dandy Mag, which never threatened in the Triumph Hurdle, but is capable of more.

Orion d'Aubrelle, a recruit from France, could cause a surprise as well, while Project Bluebook is respected on his excellent Fred Winter effort. Verdict: Dandy Mag looks a spot of value here, though Ex Patriot has the form to win.

3.50 Fairyhouse Steel Handicap Hurdle 2m6f

This is one of the toughest races of the three days and although no more than a hopeful pick, Aussie Reigns may have enough here.

A game type of horse, he is by Aussie Rules and will relish the drying ground. His form on the Flat implies that going up to this sort of distance will be in his favour and his jumping is sound.

Chain Gang is one to keep an eye on. The six-year-old ran a very pleasing race at Naas last time and seems to be coming to hand.

Another to consider is Mydor, which warmed up for this by finishing second at Tipperary. Davy Russell rode a winner for this stable yesterday. Verdict: The Ruby Walsh-ridden Aussie Reigns seems potentially a bit better than his mark.

4.25 Grade Two Keelings Irish Strawberry Hurdle 2m4f

Sutton Place has done most of his racing on deeper ground and it is not certain that the son of Mahler, the best advertisement of that stallion so far, will appreciate it.

He has oozed class so far and stayed at home from Cheltenham, while he also eschewed some handicap options. The betting will be interesting.

Renneti has his own ideas and has to be cajoled to start his races, but the ability is there.

He gave a fine account of himself in the County Hurdle, coming from the rear, and he may offer a bit of value against the likely favourite now.

Tombstone was not a huge price antepost for the Champion Hurdle before running poorly in the Coral Cup. The terrain may also be a bit lively for him. Verdict: Renneti comes with some risks attached, but at the prices he looks the value choice.

Read more: Take Fry's Flyer to enhance raiders' fine record

5.35 Grade Three Farmhouse Foods John & Chich Fowler Memorial E.B.F. Mares Chase 2m4f

The bookmakers are liable to make this a match between Westerner Lady and Slowmotion, but it may not be as simple as that.

Westerner Lady has had a superb campaign, but she must give weight away, and she may find the trip on this type of ground not quite demanding enough of her stamina.

Slowmotion travelled like a winner at Limerick last time, but seemed to not quite see it out. The good conditions do not seem to be in her favour.

Water Sprite was not as good as these hurdling, but the ground will be no problem for her and she jumped quite well in winning at Wexford. There should be more to come. Verdict: Gordon Elliott was predictably among the winners yesterday and perhaps Water Sprite can do the business for him here.

6.10 Fred Kenny Lifetime Service To Racing Handicap Chase 3m150yds

A desperately tough race that makes limited allure punting-wise. Folsom Blue is hard to predict and has had his problems, but JJ Slevin, who rode a Cheltenham winner on Champagne Classic, could get him into a rhythm and if he is close coming into the straight he could well oblige.

Art Of Payroll has become frustrating and the pick here could be Our Sox for his in-form yard. The son of September Storm stays well and is quite a sound jumper. He was third at Punchestown two years ago and has been lightly raced since.

Undressed is another horse that can throw in a good run as easily as a bad one, but he is not out of it at a big price. Verdict: Perhaps Our Sox will prove the answer in a minefield.

6.40 Ryans Cleaning Event Specialists Flat Race 2m

Samcro is a really promising son of the late Germany and, while he is unlikely to be hugely impressive here, he should still win.

He is a proper chaser in the making and was not altogether brilliant when landing odds of 1/3 at Navan when last seen, but a stronger-run race will play to his stamina asset. Lisa O'Neill will ride him prominently and he should take all the beating.

It is interesting that four of the riders in this race are female and Aine O'Connor has a nice chance on Product Of Love. The six-year-old won by 16 lengths at Killarney when last seen on ground not dissimilar to what he will face today. Verdict: Samcro, a gorgeous long-term prospect, looks hard to oppose. Product Of Love is next best.

WATCH: Boylesports preview video


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