THE PUNTER'S EYE: Irish Grand National Preview (Easter Monday)

Justin Kelly

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Justin Kelly

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justin.kelly@iconicnews.ie

New stand planned for Punchestown Racecourse

The Irish Grand National is the showpiece of the racing weekend over Easter in Ireland, and has attracted entrants from both sides of the Irish Sea. OUR DUKE (5/1) is the current favourite, but favourites don't often win this race, and indeed, last year, ROGUE ANGEL won at 16/1. Since 2007, SHUTTHEFRONTDOOR at 8/1 in 2014 has been the shortest priced winner, and Jonjo O'Neill's admirable chaser is back again this year to attempt to regain the crown, as is 2016 hero ROGUE ANGEL. We have picked three against the field in this year's renewal, scheduled for 17:00 on Easter Monday. They are all attractive each-way prices, and this is that shortlist:

BLESS THE WINGS (16/1)

Gordon Elliott has ten runners in this renewal of the Irish National, and two of those make our list. The first, BLESS THE WINGS (16/1) is the most interesting for me from the really low weight of 10st 2lbs. He carried 10st 7lbs in this last year and was denied by a short head by the eventual winner ROGUE ANGEL. He has placed twice in six starts this term, both of those coming in cross country chases at Cheltenham, including last month's festival when he chased home stablemate CAUSE OF CAUSES. CAUSE OF CAUSES followed that run by coming home second in the Aintree Grand National behind ONE FOR ARTHUR recently. The only negative is that BLESS THE WINGS is a 12-year-old, and would be one of the oldest winners ever, but it's not unheard of for veteran horses to run really well in these big staying chases. BLACK APALACHI was second in the Aintree Grand National as an 11-year-old and a Bobbyjo chase at the age of 13. Therefore, it can be done, and horses can experience a twilight revival in their careers, and the form of this BLESS THE WINGS suggests he could still go one better than 12 months ago. 

SEE ALSO: THE PUNTER'S EYE - Easter Sunday Special

STELLAR NOTION (33/1)

This Henry De Bromhead-trained runner was pulled up fairly early on in the Aintree Grand National last week, having swerved the 13th obstacle, and it's interesting that connections have chosen to line him up again so quickly afterwards. He's been campaigned over further recently and it seems to be drawing the best out of him. His most interesting form came against the re-opposing NOBLE ENDEAVOUR (12/1) in the three-mile Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown in December. He was seven-lengths fourth behind NOBLE ENDEAVOUR that day carrying six pounds less than Gordon Elliott's charge, and carries a full 12 pounds less than the same rival today. That's a nice swing in the weights that should see him competitive and STELLAR NOTION'S jockey Andrew Lynch wouldn't be swapping him for many here. 

NOBLE ENDEAVOUR (12/1)

If a horse can carry a big weight to success in this race it may well be NOBLE ENDEAVOUR (12/1) for Gordon Elliott and Davy Russell. He carried a huge weight of 11st 11lbs in the Ultima Chase at Cheltenham, going on to finish third, and may well be able to put in another weight-carrying performance to win here. He carries 11st 5lbs, just two pound lower than top weight LORD SCOUNDREL, but the eight-year-old does have some serious form to his name, and is admirably consistent. Before Cheltenham, he carried 11st 3lbs to victory in the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown in December. Prior to that, he was a good fourth behind EMPIRE OF DIRT in the Troytown at Navan in November. Davy Russell is a master at keeping a little up his sleeve for a finish, and this one has been within the first five in 13 of his last 15 starts. That makes him a solid each-way option provided that Cheltenham race hasn't taken too much out of him. I feel he has enough left in the tank after a limited enough season to go very close in an Irish National. 

OSCAR KNIGHT is the first reserve and may get a run if one of the others is pulled out, and if that happens, he could be very interesting from a basement weight. MEASUREOFMYDREAMS is also interesting on his best form, but has tended to be massively inconsistent and failed to finish in the Aintree Grand National recently.