McCain's star to skip Fairyhouse
Saturday's Aintree Grand National winner Ballabriggs heads the weights revealed yesterday for the Irish equivalent at Fairyhouse on Easter Monday -- though the 10-year-old's handler Don McCain has already ruled out the possibility of the horse running again this term.
In the event that Ballabriggs does skip the April 25 contest, which numbers 23 English-based horses, Jonjo O'Neill's Synchronised would carry top-weight of 11st 8lb. One of 11 JP McManus-owned contenders in an 88-strong entry, Synchronised won the Welsh National in January.
He is one of three possible runners for O'Neill, who landed the prestigious race with Butler's Cabin in 2007. Also among McManus' contingent is last year's 25/1 hero Bluesea Cracker, which he purchased prior to last Saturday's showpiece.
Having carried 10st 4lb to victory 12 months ago, James Motherway's mare would race off a nine-pound higher rating this time, though that still leaves her with a manageable 10st 7lb.
Bluesea Cracker completed the formidable Aintree course in 14th at the weekend and, while none the worse for it, Motherway expressed reservations yesterday about the prospect of her defending her title at Fairyhouse.
"She has one or two cuts, bruises and battle scars, but she's fine," he said. "The ground was just too quick. Andrew (McNamara) said she jumped round like a bunny, but they just went too fast for her on that ground. She could go back next year and hopefully the ground will suit her better. I'm not sure if she'll run again this season -- it (the Irish Grand National) comes up plenty quick enough, so we'll see."
Oscar Time, runner-up to Bluesea Cracker 12 months ago and second again behind Ballabriggs on Saturday, also appears unlikely to turn out.
Martin Lynch's charge was not included in the first show of betting for the race from Ladbrokes, who sponsor the 3m 5f event for a first time this year.
Whatuthink and A New Story, third and fourth respectively in 2010, are more likely to take part.
That said, the latter needs 29 to come out to get in. Niche Market, victorious for Bob Buckler in 2009 and fifth at Aintree, is a 14/1 shot to provide Paul Nicholls with his first success in the race, while The Midnight Club, a place further back on Saturday, is one of 10 Willie Mullins-trained entries.
The champion trainer has also yet to taste glory at Fairyhouse.
Michael O'Leary's Gigginstown House Stud, whose colours were carried to victory by Hear The Echo in 2008, has eight engaged, including the current favourite Beautiful Sound. That one finished third in the Byrne Group Plate at Cheltenham last month, but will need a bit of luck if he is to make the cut.
Gordon Elliott's charge sits 64th on the list off 9st 10lb, with a maximum of 25 allowed to take part. The Co Meath handler has five entered in all, including Backstage, which never landed a blow when 10th at Aintree, as well as Chicago Grey.
The latter, a runaway winner over four miles at Cheltenham, is more likely to take in the Scottish Grand National at Ayr this Saturday. One of three Irish-trained entries, he is currently 5/1 favourite for that.
Ladbrokes Irish Grand National betting: 7/1 Beautiful Sound, 8/1 The Midnight Club, 10/1 Chicago Grey, Synchronised, 12/1 Majestic Concorde, Prince Erik.