Hughes up for National siege
Dessie Hughes reports Siegemaster to be in fine shape ahead of Monday's Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse.
The four-day Easter meeting is likely to get going on Sunday as planned after the course passed an inspection yesterday, although the situation will be closely monitored over the coming days due to the adverse weather forecast.
Siegemaster has run several creditable races in defeat since winning on his seasonal reappearance at Wexford in October and was third in the Grade Three Red Mills Chase at Gowran last time.
"He's had a break since Gowran and has freshened up well," said Hughes. "I think he'll go on the ground. He ran well in the Paddy Power (at Leopardstown) on heavy ground and ran well when third in the Thyestes. It was very heavy there and he led over the last."
Willie Mullins is likely to have two runners -- Ballytrim and Equus Maximus. "I don't think Polmar is going to get in, Pomme Tiepy needs two to come out. The other two are going to run, that's the plan," Mullins said.
"I was hoping the ground would dry up for Ballytrim. He can handle soft ground, and can win on it, but he jumps better on better ground.
"Now he's gone up so much in the weights he's going to need better ground. He's in great form, so I'm still hopeful.
"Equus Maximus has just gone off the boil a bit. We've changed a few things we do with him at home so I'm hoping you'll see a better Equus Maximus on Monday. He's been a bit disappointing in his last couple of runs."
Mullins is set to run Arbor Supreme and Snowy Morning in the John Smith's Grand National at Aintree next week. The latter finished third behind Comply Or Die in 2008 and again completed the course when ninth last year.
"We know Snowy jumps round there, but you've got to have a lot of luck," said the Co Carlow handler. David Casey will partner Snowy Morning, while Paul Townend will ride Arbor Supreme. "He will stay the trip. I'm just a bit concerned the ground is going to be a bit too soft for him," added Mullins.
"On good ground, I think he'll jump very well. Both those horses' trial runs were fantastic and we're looking forward to it."
Hughes, meanwhile, is optimistic about the chances of Black Apalachi and Vic Venturi, both winners of the Becher Chase over the big fences.
"Both of them, with the weight they have, would prefer good-ish ground, but if it came up heavy I don't think it would bother them," said the Co Kildare handler.
"They finished first and second in the Bobbyjo at Fairyhouse when Vic Venturi came out on top. Vic Venturi was getting 5lb off Black Apalachi and beat him eight lengths, so there's little between them.
"I can't separate them and it depends what happens in the race. You need a lot of luck in the first circuit and you need a lot of ability in the second. Both of them have ability."