2014 Irish Grand National Preview, Trends, Tips
The last of the major Nationals is the Irish Grand National, run at Fairyhouse over the shortest of the National distances, three miles and five furlongs. With the average winner paying 31/1 in the last six years, it is not an easy contest in which to find the first past the post... but if you do, you'll be rewarded handsomely.
Luckily for us, the Irish National has been one of the betting trends races in recent years, and there are some pretty strong pointers with which to go to war at 5.00 on Easter Monday.
2014 Irish Grand National Trends
Age: Every winner since Bobbyjo in 1998 has been ten or younger, with all bar one going to horses aged seven to ten, albeit from a majority of runners
Weight: Since 1991, only three horses have carried more than 10-12 to victory. And the last of those was in 2000. Indeed, in the last decade, only one horse has won carrying more than 10-05. Look to the bottom end of the handicap!
Official Rating: No horse since at least 1997 has been rated higher than 136 when winning the Irish National. Only ten placed horses were rated north of 136, from 93 to try (10.75%), compared with 56 from 316 rated 136 or lower (17.72%)
Days since run: Sixteen of the last seventeen winners last ran within sixty days of the Irish National. So did most of the losers, in fairness.
Stamina: Fourteen of the last seventeen Irish Grand National winners had previously won over at least three miles.
Experience: Fifteen of the last seventeen Fairyhouse National winners had run between six and thirteen times over fences. Of the fifteen, all had won either two, three or four of their career chases. None of the last seventeen winners had more than thirteen prior chase starts.
That's quite a strong profile there, and it points to a youngish, low-weighted, lightly-raced, fit horse with proven stamina. That's a pretty logical profile for a valuable staying chase, right? So why the big-priced winners? Of course, it's to do with a market bias towards class horses at the top - that is, wrong - end of the handicap.
The shortlist looks like Goonyella 14/1, Rich Revival 25/1, and Daring Article 16/1.
2014 Irish Grand National Form Preview
The current favourite for the race is Home Farm, a seven year old trained by Arthur Moore. Home Farm was third in the race last year, and has had just three runs since, all presumably geared towards a repeat bid to go two places better and claim the Irish Grand National spoils.
He'll be ready for this and, by his staying-on third last year, we know conditions will suit - though the ground may be a bit quicker than ideal. But he's now five pounds higher in the handicap and that will equate to carrying eight pounds more weight in the race, assuming top weight Don Cossack takes his chance. Home Farm's run behind Rockyaboya in the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas was a solid one and, when form students go through a race like the Irish National, that's a typical eye-catching run that draws market share.
In other words, these sort of horses are in the field every year, and they're generally expensive to follow! Nevertheless, on the evidence of the book at least, Home Farm has a favourite's chance.
Cause Of Causes is next in the betting, and he's been running really well without winning. In fact, he was six lengths in front of Home Farm in the Paddy Power Chase, and just a short head behind the winner. Since then, he's run second again, this time at the Cheltenham Festival behind Spring Heeled in the Kim Muir.
The upshot of those close run things (he was also a nose second on his antipenultimate start) is that Cause Of Causes is now sixteen pounds higher than he was four starts back, and he ain't winning this off that sort of rise...
Another Cheltenham runner, Tammys Hill, is also on 12/1. Winner of the Foxhunters' Chase, and a prolific scorer in hunter chases, Tammys Hill is still only nine; and this will be his first run in a handicap chase. Racing Post Ratings give him seven pounds to find with the best weighted of these, and on balance I'm prepared to take him on, with this a completely different sphere to hunter chases.
(I did look at taking a line through Seabass, but that one seems to have regressed a stone or so this term, and is not a reliable barometer).
Goonyella is next, with a sniff of 14/1 still available at time of writing. He has the trends profile which has been so material in recent years, but he was thumped in the Welsh National under optimal conditions, and pulled up in this race last year. All his wins have been on heavy ground and, with conditions likely to be a little quicker, he could well be taken off his feet. It's a chance I'd take at 25/1 but not at 12/1 and 14/1.
It's 16/1 bar these, which brings in trends pick Daring Article, Gallant Oscar, Living Next Door, Spring Heeled and Shutthefrontdoor.
Daring Article looks like the one to me. His best form is on the soft side of good and when he's gone the furthest. He's only raced at up to and including three miles and, in chase races at that threshold, he's finished 1F. The fall was in that Paddy Power Chase, and he was swinging off the bridle at the time - six out. A good number of others also travelled well at that point so no firm conclusions can be drawn, but suffice it to say that he looks tailor made for a trip and the likely ground.
Since that tumble, he's been campaigned at two miles five furlongs to protect his mark (presumably), and ran on unsurprisingly on both occasions, finishing a half length second and then a twelve length fourth in valuable races. Daring Article's jumping is a worry, but otherwise he looks very well treated. He does need four to come out in order to get a run, as number 34. If they do, he'll be racing off his correct mark on exactly ten stone.
Gallant Oscar is a very lightly raced novice, with just four chase starts to his name. Two of those were wins, however, and he's clearly capable of better. He is also capable of mistakes, as a fall in that quartet of runs attests. His problem is that he's been whacked up a stone (less a pound) for the last time out win, and I'm unconvinced he has that much scope immediately to hand. He also looks to need soft ground to be shown at his best.
Living Next Door is by Beneficial, a sire who gets lots and lots of chase winners, but very few beyond three and a quarter miles. I know, I've done the research because The Geegeez Geegee is by Beneficial! His form on the track suggests he could be an exception as he was a running-on fifth in the four miler at Cheltenham. It remains to be seen what the form of that race is worth as none of the three to have competed subsequently from that contest have performed with credit.
Despite being a novice, Living Next Door has had eleven chase starts, so he's got plenty of experience. He's also come down twice, and his last win was off a mark of just 108. In other words, I don't think he's good enough.
Shutthefrontdoor is a smart stayer in the making, but he cannot jump for toffee. He too ran in the four miler at Cheltenham and pretty much clouted every fence on the way round. Those transgressions took their toll in the closing stages as he faded into sixth, just behind Living Next Door. Door to Door you might say.
Anyway, lousy puns aside, Shutthefrontdoor has 10-13 to carry, and is unlikely to be a significantly better jumper than the last day. If he did put in a near flawless round, he could defy a rating of 142 and go very close indeed. It's a big if though, despite trip and ground appearing optimal.
We are now into the realms of the 20/1 shots. In other words, we've probably not mentioned the winner yet!
Let's consider the remaining runner on my trendy shortlist, Rich Revival. He's number thirty in the weights so is guaranteed a run if connections wish, and has produced more P's than Bird's Eye's farmers this season, three of his last four starts culminating in an early bath. The first of those was in last year's Irish National, when he was sent off as short as 10/1 off a perch of 136. He's got five pounds less here, but comes into the race is lesser form.
On the bright side, as well as the reduced weight, he has also had a lighter campaign, and was sent off 5/1 favourite in a big field handicap hurdle last time, where he finished third. That was an eight grand race (euro, not sterling!) and this is a €141,000 race, which tells you plenty about the gulf in class. It's quite hard to recommend him, but he does tick the trends boxes and I'll have 50p on him just in case.
I'll whizz through some of the other outsiders in the hope of at least mentioning the winner (!), starting with Folsom Blue, who looks to need heavy ground. That's a pity as he's a strong travelling three and a half mile chase winner. Golden Wonder is a consistent sort that won't mind the ground regardless of how it comes up (back to back winner on heavy and good to firm), and he had a sighter of these fences a fortnight ago when fourth over three miles and a furlong. At 25/1 he could run into the places.
The Westener Boy is owned by JP McManus, and this looks to have been the plan since he came back from a year off. Good enough to race in the Grade 1 Topaz Novice Chase in December 2012, he pulled up there and then fell a month later after jumping awkwardly throughout. He wasn't seen again until February of this year, and may have had some sort of back problem.
So far in two runs this term he's been kept to hurdles. That has protected his handicap rating but it has also not put his back under any sort of scrutiny. Of course, that's supposition on my part and the facts - to which we would be better served sticking - are that he was a very highly regarded bumper horse with strong chase form prior to sinking in Grade 1 company. On the comeback trail, he could be well treated on lines through Marasonnien (rated 134, and beaten 25 lengths by The Westener Boy), and Texas Jack (rated 158, beat The Westener Boy by 17 lengths).
He may need it soft to be seen to best effect, but if it does rain, 20/1 is worth a small interest too.
And finally, Heaney has a lot going for him on a sound surface. He's won two of his eight chase starts, on good and yielding ground, and has shown his best form at three miles, the furthest he's raced. He was a taking fifth behind Grand National third, Double Seven, at Limerick two starts back, staying on strikingly. The second horse that day was subsequent Cheltenham Festival winner, Spring Heeled, and that was on good ground, and he's a stone and a pound better off for a seven length beating with that re-opposing one.
He's since run a clunker on soft, which is forgiveable as he'd likely not have acted on that, and has been off since. That 115 day absence is a worry, but if he's fit enough, he'll be staying on when most have had more than plenty. 25/1 is all right in that context.
2014 Irish Grand National Tips
Gosh, it's a tricky race! On trends, I readily favour Daring Article from the shortlist. He looks sure to improve for the step up beyond three miles, and the ground should be optimal. If the fences don't take his legs from under him, he's a serious contender to my eye.
Heaney needs to overcome that three month absence, which is not a characteristic associated with most Irish National winners, though in fairness few horses have tried. If he can, and he's run solidly off a break before - like when fifth to Felix Yonger - he is another for whom the longer distance is a boon. They're numbers 34 and 35 in the weights currently, so not guaranteed to run, but both are big players at the right end of the handicap if they make the cut.
Home Farm is an obvious enough favourite, without being at all tempting from a wagering standpoint.
2014 Irish Grand National trends selection:
Daring Article 16/1 FIVE places / money back if 2nd / £20 risk free bet for new customers, Betbright
2014 Irish Grand National alternative selection:
Heaney 25/1 FIVE places / money back if 2nd / £20 risk free bet for new customers, Betbright
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