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McManus eyes on Irish National prize

Groody Hill is the bookies' favourite to continue JP McManus' rich vein of recent form in the Irish Grand National following yesterday's publication of the weights for the Easter Monday showpiece at Fairyhouse.

Synchronised's famous Gold Cup victory was the highlight of a memorable Cheltenham Festival that yielded five winners for racing's most generous benefactor, and no less than 10 of the 69 Irish National entries sport McManus' ubiquitous silks.

The Jonjo O'Neill-trained Alfie Sherrin, which initiated the Limerick native's incredible Prestbury Park haul, is among those that could line out in the €250,000 three-mile-five-furlong event, while Catch Me, a narrow runner-up on his first start for McManus in the Pertemps Final, is also engaged.

Edward O'Grady's 10-year-old, a 20/1 shot with race sponsors Ladbrokes, has been allotted 10st 13lb, but it is Christy Roche's highly progressive Groody Hill (10st 9lb) that the promoters fear most.

A six-year-old novice which completed a fine hat-trick in the Troytown at Navan in November, Roche's grey finished third behind Cross Appeal in the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown after Christmas and Ladbrokes make him their clear 8/1 favourite.

Cross Appeal, one of four that Noel Meade has engaged, is set to carry two pounds less than the market leader, and his Co Meath-based handler said yesterday that he would be the likely mount of stable jockey Paul Carberry.

"He is in really good form," Meade added of Cross Appeal, a best-priced 16/1 chance. "We won't mind if the rain stays away for him or Fisher Bridge, but we would only run Medical Card if the ground came up on the soft side."

Ted Walsh's prolific Seabass tops the page on 11st 10lb, but, like last year's Nina Carberry-ridden Fairyhouse scorer Organisedconfusion (11st 4lb), could instead tackle the English edition at Aintree five days later.

Michael O'Leary's Gigginstown Stud has one less option than McManus, with Magnanimity, Gift Of Dgab and Four Commanders all contenders.


Jim Dreaper, who has won the prestigious Fairyhouse steeplechase on four occasions already, has entered the injury-plagued dual recent winner Cadogan.

"We have had some leg trouble with him," Dreaper reported of the soft ground-loving 12-year-old, "but we are delighted to have won some races with him.

"The National has such a great prize on offer that we had to go for it, but he will obviously be very ground dependent."

Of the going, Fairyhouse manager Peter Roe said: "We will keep a close eye on the weather and will commence watering when appropriate to ensure safe ground for the festival."

The Powers Gold Cup, the centrepiece on Easter Sunday, has attracted a 16-strong entry, with Peter Casey's Irish Arkle hero Flemenstar and Mouse Morris' exciting Gigginstown-owned Rathlin both engaged in the two-and-a-half-mile Grade One.

Ahead of the Aintree National, Gordon Elliott, who saddled Silver Birch to a sensational Liverpool triumph in 2007, has declared Chicago Grey, his main contender for this year's renewal, to be pleasing him at home.

"It's all systems go for the National and we are looking forward to it," he said of the 20/1 shot, which chased home Rubi Light in the Red Mills Chase last month.

"We're training him as normal, but we'll pop him over a fence in the week before the race. He seems to be in good form so we're very happy."

Meanwhile, Aidan O'Brien's travelling head lad Pat Keating revealed that Ballydoyle's six intended runners have landed safely in Dubai ahead of Saturday night's World Cup meeting.

Multiple Group One winner So You Think is due to start his campaign in the feature event, with the likes of Breeders' Cup victor St Nicholas Abbey on duty on the undercard.

In other Flat news, Dermot Weld has confirmed that the evergreen Famous Name will race on as a seven-year-old in an attempt to secure an elusive first Group One.

"Please God he'll get his Group One this year," mused the Curragh handler, who also reported the 2010 Gold Cup winner Rite Of Passage to be on schedule to return from a tendon injury this year.

"There is a Group One in him, and it's just to try and find the race. I wouldn't be against running him in Canada or America."

Irish Independent