Wednesday 23 January 2019

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

Willie Mullins
Willie Mullins

The Boylesports Irish Grand National is off at 5pm at Fairyhouse. Here are all the top tips and Michael Verney's race-by-race guide.

Boylesports Irish Grand National, 5pm

Patrick Mullins: Pairofbrowneyes

Michael Verney: Kemboy

Niall Cronin: Pairofbrowneyes

Ian Gaughran: Monbeg Notorious

Chris Wilson: Pairofbrowneyes

Jack Streep: Pairofbrowneyes

Mattie Groves: Mall Dini


Kemboy to break Mullins' duck in National

It's astonishing to think that, for all the accolades Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott have to show on their remarkable training CVs, the Boylesports Irish Grand National remains elusive.

Both fire several bullets at today's Fairyhouse feature in an effort to put the record straight, with Elliott's 13 runners a record as the Meath handler bids to cement his lead at the head of the Irish trainers' championship.

While Mullins may be nine behind in the numbers game for the €500,000 showpiece, quality certainly trumps quantity, with each of the Closutton quartet in the top 10 of the betting and holding live chances for another ultra-competitive 30-runner heat.

With Michael O'Leary's Gigginstown House Stud owning one third of the field - eight of which are trained by Elliott - and 2015 winner Thunder and Roses running for Mouse Morris, it's an intriguing affair, but it can be narrowed down to less than a dozen with realistic claims.

Of the last 20 runnings, horses aged 10 or older have prevailed on only three occasions, with improving horses the order of the day. The trio of seven-year-olds Monbeg Notorious, Squouateur and Dounikos may hold the best chance of Elliott breaking his duck.

Monbeg Notorious has excelled in recent months backing up his blistering Thyestes Chase win to score in Grade Two company at Navan six weeks ago and Jack Kennedy's mount is on an upward curve.

The four-miler at Cheltenham was the preferred target for Dounikos rather than a hot RSA Chase so today's gruelling 3m5f trip should really play to his strengths although Davy Russell will likely have to wait another year to claim his first Irish National.

Squouateur is consistent but JP McManus' runner often flatters to deceive and while he looks dangerous near the bottom of the weights (9-10), no chase win in ten starts hardly inspires great confidence.

Last seen when chasing home Kim Muir runner-up Mall Dini at Cheltenham 18 days ago, that pair renew acquaintances but it's hard to see Pat Kelly's runner leaving the effects of that tough race behind him.

Also a maiden over fences after 12 runs, Mall Dini jumped superbly at the Cotswolds, but jockey Patrick Mullins later reported that the heavy going was not in his favour and, having waited all year for better conditions, connections are still left waiting and the demanding terrain at the Meath track greatly reduces his chance of victory.

Favourite Pairofbrowneyes had the form of his Leinster National win boosted when the third-placed Glencairn View easily claimed a big Navan handicap chase last week.

Paul Townend's mount has a handy weight (10-7) but he may be undone by one of his stablemates.

Our Duke became the first horse since Commanche Court (2000) to carry over 11st to victory when scorching to success last year and, while Bellshill is classy, he's not in that league and 11st4lbs is a hefty burden.

The eight-year-old's form figures outside of Cheltenham and Leopardstown read 1,2,1,1,1,1,2,1,1,1,1 and a quick scroll through his form highlights his formidable talent.

His third to Might Bite in last year's RSA Chase stands out and belying a 346-day absence to take the Bobbyjo Chase was highly impressive but given the testing conditions, the weight might catch him and preference is for the exciting novice Kemboy.

Bryan Cooper has had a largely frustrating time since losing his retained rider role with Gigginstown, but this could parachute him right back into the big time.

Organisedconfusion (2011) also took this race as a six-year-old and, while it's asking something to win such an illustrious race on just his fourth chase start, he has class and youth in his favour.

Were it not for a bad blunder in the JLT at Cheltenham, the course winner would have been a lot closer than fourth and the way he stayed up the hill bodes well for a surprise winner.

Verney's verdict

1: Kemboy

2: Monbeg Notorious

3: Bellshill

4: Pairofbrowneyes


Michael Verney's race-by-race guide


A wide open betting heat which looks a minefield for punters with a host of unexposed runners and Jessica Harrington's progressive Whisperinthebreeze is an interesting contender under Robbie Power.

The five-year-old impressed in his maiden hurdle win at Naas, but preference is for the lightly-weighted Quamino.

Wexford trainer Paul Nolan is in sparkling form after winning with a bit in hand on St Patrick's Day and he should be right in the mix.

Verdict: The improving Quamino (e/w) should be thereabouts for Bryan Cooper.

2.45 Grade Two Rathbarry & Glenview Studs Nov Hurdle 2m

No horse priced bigger than 7/2 has won this in the last 10 runnings, so all eyes will be on Getabird to bounce back after flopping at the Festival.

Should Mullins' six-year-old show the form which saw him swat aside Mengli Khan in a Punchestown Grade Two in January, Paul Townend's mount should prevail, but there are dangers.

Stablemate Sharjah has failed to live up to his promise, with the going likely to be against him, while Veneer Of Charm receives 16lbs in allowances from the likely favourite and is a danger under Jack Kennedy.

Verdict: It's hard to see past Getabird.

3.15 Fairyhouse Steel Handicap Hurdle 2m 6f

Another tricky handicap, but with doubts hanging over many of the runners regarding the trip, fitness and the going, Space Cadet ticks several boxes reverting back to hurdles.

Elliott's eight-year-old has been keeping good company over fences - placed in competitive handicaps like the Thyestes, Irish National Trial and the Leinster National - and is well treated over the smaller obstacles.

Verdict: Space Cadet looks well treated.

3.50 Grade Two Keelings Irish Strawberry Hurdle 2m 4f

The market usually tells the tale, with no horse bigger than 4/1 prevailing in the last 10 years, including five favourites and five victories for team Mullins, but this year may be different.

Last year's winner Renneti is one of seven from a powerful Closutton team, including Coral Cup winner Bleu Berry, but they may have to play second fiddle with Identity Chief's fourth place in the Champion Hurdle the stand-out in an ultra-competitive contest.

When it comes to freshness, however, it's hard to rule out Forge Meadow and Harrington's mare can repeat the form of her Red Mills Hurdle win over Henry de Bromhead's runner with a 4lbs swing also in her favour.

Verdict: There's an awful lot to like about Forge Meadow.

4.25 Grade Two Devenish Chase 2m 4f

Un De Sceaux looks hard to oppose, but considering his clear-cut defeat in the Ryanair Chase and his growing years, backing the 10-year-old at odds-on might not be the wisest move.

English raider Kylemore Lough won the Ryanair Gold Cup Novice Chase here two years ago, but Harry Fry's charge has disappointed since, while the improving Doctor Phoenix is a danger for Elliott and Davy Russell.

The forgotten horse of the race is Coney Island. Touted as a Gold Cup contender before flopping in the Ascot Chase, Harty's seven-year-old is a live contender if producing his best and the value bet against the hotpot.

Verdict: Coney Island to be in the first two if returning to his best.

5.45 Fred Kenny Lifetime Service To Racing Handicap Chase 3m 150yds

This could end up being a battle between two Elliott runners.

Out Sam lost his chance when travelling sweetly on the home turn in the Ulster National as a loose horse forced him wide and impeded his progress, but the nine-year-old can gain revenge on stable companion Poormans Hill, which picked up the pieces on that day.

Verdict: Out Sam to make amends.

6.15 Cawley Furniture INH Flat Race 2m

Some smart sorts have won this race, including Samcro 12 months ago, and Elliott can score again with Getaway John, which finished second to subsequent Champion Bumper third Tornado Flyer on his penultimate start.

Verdict: Getaway John can land the last.

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