Sunday 25 March 2018

Wings can soar to new heights for Kennedy

Bless The Wings finishing runner-up under Jamie Codd at Cheltenham – Gordon Elliott’s charge will carry plenty of support to go one better in the traditional Fairyhouse showpiece on Monday. Photo: Getty
Bless The Wings finishing runner-up under Jamie Codd at Cheltenham – Gordon Elliott’s charge will carry plenty of support to go one better in the traditional Fairyhouse showpiece on Monday. Photo: Getty

Wayne Bailey

My woeful record in Grand Nationals continued last week and, unfortunately, I can still say that I haven't backed the winner since I had 50 pence on Mr Frisk at 16/1 aged ten back in 1990.

It was me that was aged ten by the way, the horse was 11. Last week's choice, Vicente, fell at the first so I didn't even get a run for my money this year.

I watched the big race in the local and despite putting on a brave face and saying "that's the National for you!" when he fell, if the truth be told I wanted to take my ball back and not play anymore.

It's hard to be interested in the rest of the race when you've decided, for the first time in years, to only back one horse and he's gone almost immediately.

In fairness to the winner One For Arthur, he came from right back down the field to win which is no mean feat in the Grand National.

One-paced He was way behind when they hit the Canal Turn although I did feel a bit sorry for backers of Blaklion, which hit 1/2 in-running when drawing clear a little early on, but he ended up a little one-paced.

But sure as Johnny Logan once sang, what's another year? Although at least we get to throw our hat into the ring once again on Monday for the Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse, for which Our Duke heads the market at the time of writing.

Jessica Harrington's seven-year-old has shaped very well in his three starts over fences so far, winning a Grade One at Leopardstown although early quotes of 11/2 seem a little short about a horse which is still learning the ropes. I do admit that he looks very talented though, and is almost sure to progress this season.

Gordon Elliott has an extremely strong team and, incredibly, is responsible for around a third of the field as his battle with Willie Mullins to become champion Irish trainer reaches its climax after an interesting struggle.

Surprisingly, neither trainer has won the Irish National before but Elliott's mob-handed approach may just pay its way tomorrow.

It's a lot to choose from and the likes of Noble Endeavor and Tiger Roll have leading claims but the one that catches my eye most is last year's runner-up Bless The Wings, which just about gets in at the bottom of the weights, and has the considerable assistance of the weighing-room's rising star Jack Kennedy.

Although he's now gone ten races without a win, the 12-year-old has been a reliable sort - claiming place money in some very big races, and he has a huge heart.

He jumps well, he stays and there's a lot to like about his price of 16/1 as an each-way bet. In the 2016 renewal, he traded below 1/3 in-running on the machine at one stage under a great patient ride from Ruby Walsh, but was outbattled at the finish and was beaten by a head to Mouse Morris' Rogue Angel.

He also had to settle for second place when beaten by stablemate Cause Of Causes (runner-up in last Saturday's National at Aintree) in the Cross Country at Cheltenham, but I don't think the handicapper has been too harsh all things considered, and he's definitely in with a good chance of a place at the very least.

It may not be as exciting as a large-field jumps race but Kempton's Listed Snowdrop Fillies' Stakes (3.45) looks a hell of a lot easier to figure out and Laugh Aloud, which was priced 7/4 yesterday evening, is my idea of a worthy favourite.

The Godolphin filly won a maiden without breaking a sweat at Windsor last year but I was particularly impressed with how she dismissed a 15-runner Listed field at Newmarket last time back in September. Two furlongs out, Robert Halvin asked her to kick on and she moved away from the field with ease, beating a couple of today's opponents. The only worry is that it's been 204 days since her last race but you can't avoid taking those risks when betting at this time of the year.

Yorkhill is considered the banker horse for tomorrow's Grade One Ryanair Gold Cup Novice Chase (4.0 Fairyhouse) but at a price of 2/5 or thereabouts, it's not worth having a bet. He was superb when winning the JLT Novices' Chase at Cheltenham and will be hard to beat if running to form.

A little earlier on the same card, Let's Dance is tipped to land the E.B.F. Mares Novice Hurdle Championship Final (2.50) although she too will most likely be odds-on. She had plenty in hand when winning the Mares' Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham.


THE Angel Gabrial was God's messenger, and I'm hoping the horse named after him will deliver (sorry - I'll get my coat!) in the Queen's Cup Handicap at Musselburgh (3.35).

Chalked up at a nice each-way price of 9/1, Richard Fahey's gelding had struggled last season when his rating hovered around the 104 mark but he got back on track somewhat when third off 98 in a handicap at Haydock back in September.

Once again, he struggled last time out when rated 100 at Newmarket in October so a 4lb drop to 96 for today should make a big difference.

There are negatives though, and he's on a 20-race losing run stretching back to 2014 so I hope I'm not making too many excuses for him.

Of the rest, Isharah deserves a mention and will probably go off as favourite. Mark Johnston's charge is a useful sort on the handicap scene winning three in a row in December/January, and ran what was arguably a career best when second to First Mohican in a conditions race on the all-weather at Lingfield last time out.


3.35 Musselburgh: Angel Gabrial e/w

3.45 Kempton: Laugh Aloud

4.40 Musselburgh: War Of Succession

2.50 Fairyhouse: Let's Dance (Sunday)

5.0 Fairyhouse: Bless The Wings e/w (Monday)

Irish Independent

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