Martin eyes Fairyhouse Storm
THE first Irish Grand National was run in 1870 at Fairyhouse for a total prize of 167 sovereigns. Tomorrow, the winning purse will be €141,000 (down only marginally from last year), with 30 horses all in with some sort of chance.
Tony Martin's Saddlers Storm sneaks into the race on a weight of 10st 1lb, with David Casey in the saddle, and he is general 6/1 favourite. A typical improver from the stable, he is now rated 128, having started off marked 40lbs lower just five runs ago.
A hat-trick of wins later, the son of Saddlers' Hall has gained some valuable experience, but his price may now be short enough. As with the yard's string generally, the eight-year-old is habitually held up, which means he will be reliant on luck to some degree.
Alpha Ridge is also a novice and has the class to run a big race off 10st 8lbs. However, his jumping for such a big test like this is slightly suspect and he may be opposable in the circumstances.
Willie Mullins has three contenders: the Ruby Walsh-ridden Equus Maximus, Ballytrim (shortest price of the three under Paul Townend) and Katie Walsh's mount, Pomme Tiepy. She was fifth in the race 12 months ago but has shown very little since.
Two outsiders worth noting are Dancing Tornado and Operation Houdini. The first-named is quirky and has stamina questions to answer, but he is quite classy and has Tony McCoy's aid.
A cheeky winner over hurdles at Naas four weeks ago, the nine-year-old has to prove he stays further than two and a half miles, so he could be floundering when the going gets tough tomorrow. As a back-to-lay proposition on the exchanges, he has possibilities for Michael Hourigan, whose recent record in the race is enviable.
Davy Fitzgerald's Operation Houdini is a 33/1 chance and, intriguingly, the colourful trainer has put blinkers on the eight-year-old for the first time in public. An early casualty 12 months ago, the gelding can certainly run into a place if completing the course.
The selection, if a necessarily tentative one, is Telenor. Quoted at 16/1, the Bob Back gelding is a stout stayer and excelled himself when dead-heating with the classy Uimhiraceathair at Navan in February.
A brilliant jumper, he will probably be handy enough (thus making him less likely to encounter trouble) and he may be progressive enough to shrug off the obstacle of a career-high mark.