Pipe hoping his Junior can defy big burden in National
David Pipe has confirmed his intention to keep the top-weighted Junior in Monday's Ladbrokes Irish Grand National at this morning's final declaration stage.
A top-priced 25/1 shot, Pipe's brilliantly versatile 10-year-old was a Royal Ascot winner in 2010, a Cheltenham Festival winner in 2011 and got the current jumps campaign under way with a dour victory on heavy ground at Newcastle in December.
Junior is set to carry 11st 9lb in the prestigious Fairyhouse handicap chase, which would leave Tony Martin's Dedigout – also entered in Sunday's Powers Gold Cup – with a more manageable 11st.
It would also mean that, of the 51 left to go forward this morning, up to 26 others could potentially race off their correct handicap marks.
"He'll go for the Irish National," said Pipe, whose father Martin won the three-mile-five-furlong showpiece with the Adrian Maguire-ridden Omerta in 1991.
Rich Revival is due to be Wexford handler Liz Doyle's first runner in the race. Her lightly raced nine-year-old, unbeaten in its only three starts over fences this term since returning from 18 months on the sidelines, is as low as 7/1 clear market leader and is set to carry just 10st 3lb.
Doyle is in bullish form about his prospects. "Rich Revival is in serious order ahead of his big day on Monday at Fairyhouse," she tweeted after watching him work yesterday morning.
The ground at Fairyhouse was still officially being described as heavy, with a light covering of snow on the track.
It is similarly testing at Cork ahead of the three-day Easter meeting, which gets under way there tomorrow.
Punchestown might yet benefit from the continued prevalence of such testing conditions. The prospect of better going at next month's National Hunt Festival has prompted Paul Costello, spokesperson for Imperial Commander's owners Our Friends In The North Syndicate, to suggest that the 2010 Cheltenham Gold Cup hero could travel over for the Gold Cup on April 24.
Imperial Commander first has the option of the Betfair Bowl or carrying top-weight in the Grand National at Aintree next week. "If the ground was heavy, he wouldn't run in the National and probably not in the Bowl either," Costello said. "If that was the case, he would wait for Punchestown."
The David Bridgwater-trained Wyck Hill, which JP McManus bought prior to its flop at Kempton last month, has been ruled out of the Aintree showpiece, though he could also turn up at Punchestown.
Mick Winters, meanwhile, reports that Rebel Fitz will tackle Hurricane Fly in the Rabobank Champion Hurdle at Punchestown. Beaten on unsuitably soft ground on his reappearance at Cork last week, the Galway Hurdle hero is then to embark on a novice chasing campaign over the summer.