Tuesday 12 December 2017

Lennon looks to call National tune

Tammys Hill was a winner at the Cheltenham Festival
Tammys Hill was a winner at the Cheltenham Festival

Liam Lennon has his fingers firmly crossed Tammys Hill can transfer his smart hunter chase form to the open ranks when his stable star goes for glory in the Boylesports Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse on Easter Monday.

The nine-year-old gave the County Down handler his best ever day on a racecourse when lifting the CGA Foxhunter Chase at Cheltenham last month, but Lennon knows this valuable and historic staying handicap chase is in a different league to that contest.

"We're looking forward to it, he's in good form, but we're hopeful rather than confident," he said.

"Winning at Cheltenham was the highlight of our career, and hopefully he'll be up for it on Monday.

"This is a different thing altogether. It's an Irish National, but the way he won at Cheltenham he has to take his chance."

Lennon is delighted to gave booked Brian O'Connell, who rode the horse in hurdle races three years ago and renewed the acquaintance recently in a racecourse gallop.

"Brian rode him over hurdles for us in his early days. He schooled him at the Curragh last week and he's happy with him. We just need a bit of running, that's the main thing," he said.

The Dreaper family have a remarkable record in the race with the late Tom Dreaper winning it 10 times including with the legendary Arkle and Flyingbolt and his son Jim on four occasions.

The last of those victories, however, came way back in 1978 when Brown Lad won it for a second time.

He now tries for a fifth with two runners, Goonyella, who just missed the cut for the Crabbie's Grand National, and Los Amigos, who is lightly-raced over fences.

"It's a very competitive handicap and it's hard to rule any horse out of it. Both of ours have chances and it would help if some appreciable rain came," said the County Meath handler.

"I'd imagine the ground will be perfect and be safe for every horse, but it would help our chances if it came a bit softer.

"Los Amigos has very little experience over fences. He's just had four chase runs. He's a nice progressive horse.

"Both of my horses have similar profiles in the kind of ground they like as they seem to be at their best advantage when the ground is soft."

The Moores are another family whose name is synonymous with the Irish National.

Like his late father Dan, Arthur Moore has both ridden and trained winners of the Bank Holiday feature.

The Naas handler has saddled two winners, Feathered Gale in 1996 and Organisedconfusion in 2011. He tries again with Home Farm, who was third to Liberty Counsel 12 months ago but has not been in the same form of late.

"He just disappointed us on his previous run, but he seems fine in himself," said Moore.

"We are just hoping he's on form and we're happy enough with him.

"He came into last year's race on the back of a good win. It would have been nice if he'd been doing that, but we're quite hopeful of a good run."

Amazingly, Ireland's champion jumps trainer Willie Mullins has yet to get his name on the roll of honour and tries with two runners, Away We Go, Touch The Eden.

"I'll be keeping a good eye on the ground," he said.

"Away We Go's preparation has been very bad, I suppose. We haven't got enough runs into him. He has different little problems.

"It's going to be tough trying to win a National with the prep he's had, It wouldn't be ideal at all. Touch The Eden has had an ideal prep."

Dessie Hughes struck with Timbera in 2003 and looks to Golden Wonder to give him a second success in the three mile five furlong handicap chase.

"He's in good form. He ran a good race the last day and we're happy with him. The ground should be fine for him," said the Curragh trainer.

Pendra is one of six horses declared to carry the colours of top owner JP McManus.

Pendra may only be a novice, but his trainer Charlie Longsdon feels it is worth giving the six-year-old a chance in this stamina test.

"Obviously with 30 runners in the race, it is going to be a massive ask for a novice like Pendra, but the race has been good to novices in the past," the Chipping Norton trainer told charlielongsdonracing.com.

"The other thing that will also be nerve-wracking is the distance of the race. He has never raced over further than two-miles-five before and on Monday he will be stepping up to three and a half miles.

"To be fair he is bred to be a staying chaser, it's just that we have not stepped him up until now.

"Going over the trip will have its advantages in that they will surely go a stride slower than he has been to date and therefore it should give him a chance to get into a nice rhythm and then if he gets into that rhythm it will help him to stay - at Cheltenham he always looked to be going a stride quicker than he looked comfortable with."

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