DCSIMG

Racing: National on guard for Irish raid

  • by PETER ALLINSON
 

Irish horses look strong to claim a first John Smith’s Grand National in six years following the first entry stage of the world’s most famous steeplechase.

And bookies also favour a Scottish-owned winner as Borders computer tycoon Graham Wylie currently has the two Aintree market leaders.

Irish-trained horses have landed the four-and-a-half-mile contest on no less than six occasions since Bobbyjo struck for the Carberry family back in 1999, but none has won since Gordon Elliott’s Silver Birch in 2007. That could all change this year, though, with Ladbrokes offering 4-6 that the most valuable prize in National Hunt racing goes to the Emerald Isle on 6 April.

Current 16-1 ante-post favourites are the Willie Mullins-trained, Wylie-owned Prince De Beauchene and On His Own, while Ted Walsh’s Seabass, third in last year’s renewal, is also among the 32 Irish contenders.

Walsh, who won the race in 2000 with Papillon, has also put in Leopardstown winner Colbert Station. Elliott has six entries this year including the high-class Jessies Dream, who has not been seen since finishing second in the 2011 RSA Chase at Cheltenham.

The last two winners of the Irish National – Organisedconfusion (2011) and Lion Na Bearnai (2012) – are also engaged.

Hayley O’Connor of Ladbrokes said: “The Irish appear to hold an even stronger hand than usual. It will be six years since Silver Birch took the big prize back to Ireland but we think the chances this year are better than ever.”

Most of last year’s principals feature among a total of 84 entries. Winner Neptune Collonges has been retired, but runner-up Sunnyhillboy and fourth home Cappa Bleu are all again possible for the £975,000 showpiece. Former Gold Cup hero Imperial Commander has also been entered, although his participation is unlikely. A tweet from his owners Imperial Racing read: “Please RT Imperial Commander Grand National – He is entered but his main and probably only target is the Gold Cup!”.

Paul Nicholls, trainer of Neptune Collonges, has four chances, headed by Tidal Bay, last seen winning the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown. He also has What A Friend and Harry The Viking, part-owned by Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, as well as Join Together.

For the first time, the world’s greatest chase will take place over the new distance of four miles, three furlongs and about 110 yards, with the start moved closer to the first fence.

Donald McCain emulated his late father Ginger when successful with Ballabriggs in 2011 and that horse leads his team with Across The Bay, Cloudy Lane, Fabalu and Weird Al. Weights will be published at a ceremony in London on 12 February.

Lingfield

1.30 The Mongoose

2.00 Elusive Thought

2.30 Secret Millionaire (nap)

3.00 Waterloo Dock

3.30 Neige D’Antan

4.00 Storm Runner

4.30 Jack My Boy

Towcester

1.20 Sydney Paget

1.50 Grimley Girl

2.20 Thunderstorm

2.50 Domoly

3.20 Loxendor

3.50 Noble Witness

4.20 Kentford Legend

Wincanton

1.40 Parsnip Pete

2.10 Ambion Wood

2.40 Royal Charm

3.10 Mon Mome

3.40 Bobs Law

4.10 Flying Award

Wolverhampton

4.50 Colbyor

5.20 Hiddon Coin

5.50 Seawood

6.20 Extremely Alert

6.50 Triple Dream

7.20 Goldan Jess

7.50 Armada Bay

Double

Secret Millionaire

2:30 Lingfield

Goldan Jess

7:20 Wolverhampton

 

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