Irish Grand National 2010 Preview

In a week that culminates with THE greatest race of them all, dear reader, what better way to start than with the Irish equivalent of the THE greatest race of them all?

I am of course referring to the Grand National run on Saturday 10th April, and the Irish version - innovatively named, the Irish Grand National - run on the preceding Bank Holiday, Easter Monday, 5th April at Fairyhouse.

The Irish version was far luckier for followers of this column last year, as I successfully nominated 33/1 winner, Niche Market (put up at 50's). Whereas I couldn't have French-bred Mon Mome in the big Aintree showcase, and also managed to lay the favourite for a place for a small fortune. Painful.

More on this in a moment...


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OK, enough already. Back to the geegees. Below is a copy of the article I wrote for the Irish Field this week on the subject of the Irish Grand National, and who might win and why - the price has collapsed on one of my tips (no doubt, completely unrelated to me tipping it!), but it's still available at 20's with Ladbrokes.


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Five days before Aintree hosts its Grand National, Fairyhouse steals a march - and potentially several fancied runners - from the Liverpool showpiece for its own thrilling Easter highlight, the Powers Whiskey Irish Grand National, to be run on Monday, April 5th.

The weights were announced last week for the 2010 renewal of the famous race, and two horses - Notre Pere and The Tother One - share top weight on 11-10.

There are 86 declared, and champion trainer Willie Mullins holds an amazing fourteen of those declarations. Interestingly, although his father, Paddy, won the race four times, Mullins, Jr., has yet to have a horse even place from a fair few tries: eleven in the last decade alone.

With winners registering at 33/1 three times and 20/1, and no winner returned shorted than 9/1, in the last ten years, you'd be forgiven for thinking this was a nightmare for punters. Even more so, given the average winning SP of a little under 20/1.

But look a little more closely and there's actually a pretty robust trends profile underpinning the majority of those winners, even at the fat end of the odds spectrum. So, quite apart from the spectacle, the Irish Grand National is very much a race to persevere with from a betting perspective.

Age is important in this race, as it is in so many others. Although Granit D'Estruval did win in 2004 as a ten year old, he bucked a significant trend for horses aged seven to nine to take Powers Whiskey honours. Indeed, that solitary victory for the double-figure veterans' team comes from 68 runners.

Of the more noteworthy entries, this must count against Cheltenham Cross Country victor, A New Story (who was placed here for the old guard last term); and stablemate at Michael Hourigan's Patrickswell yard, Church Island (also placed last year, taking Hourigan's record to an incredibly frustrating no winners and five places from ten runners in the last decade).

Other OAP's to avoid include any of Oulart, Royal County Star, Equus Maximus, Far More Serious and Wild Passion that might make the lineup.

At the other end of what is a short age bracket are six year olds (five year olds are also eligible but unsurprisingly are rarely represented - no entries this year). These young'uns are 0 from 6 in the last ten years (last won by 6yo Rhyme N'Reason in 1985) and, again, should any of Across The Bay, Beckett Rock, Galant Nuit, Ide No Idea, Quiscover Fontaine and The Last Derby show up, they should be given the wide berth.

So we're probably looking for a seven or eight year old, as seven of the last ten winners have been, but we will include the nine years old group as well, as they've registered two wins and nine places from 55 starters in the period under scrutiny.

As with all the various National's, stamina is an important pre-requisite. Increasingly, we're seeing more runners satisfy the fundamental level of staying power, but there are still a few each year who have yet to win beyond three miles and still feature towards the head of the market.

This year is no exception, and on this basis, it is time to scribble out Sunyhillboy, Shakervilz, Dancing Tornado and Hangover, amongst others at longer odds, from our shortlists.

Obviously, it takes a kindly-weighted animal with a touch of class to win any National and the Irish National is no exception. There are some specific parameters that better define this statement in terms of narrowing the Fairyhouse field. Firstly, no horse since Commanche Court has shouldered greater than 10-12, and only one horse in the last eleven runnings has won from out of the handicap (Hear The Echo in 2006).

Aligned to that is the fact that all of the last ten winners had an official rating between 121 and 136, which serves to compress the handicap still further.

Suddenly, and assuming that either of the two top-weights stand their ground, from 86 possibles, we have a shortlist of just a dozen, five of which are already eliminated for reasons of age.

If this seems overly simplistic, remember that nine of the last ten winners could have been identified by looking at seven to nine year olds in the weight and ratings bands above. That doesn't guarantee it will happen again this year, of course, but equally there is no compelling reason to ignore the strong common sense behind these leading statistics.

My remaining septet then, are: Alpha Ridge, Becauseicouldntsee, Nostringsattached, Officier De Reserve, Hangover, Double Dizzy, and Operation Houdini.

We can narrow this peloton group down further by bearing in mind that previous Fairyhouse form has been a key chromosome in the genetic makeup of six of the last seven Irish winners. Fairyhouse is not a straightforward track, and its stiff one and three quarter miles undulating circuit takes some handling. Prior evidence of managing the demands is clearly to be favoured.

Alpha Ridge was second to the mighty Pandorama here at Christmas in no less than the Grade 1 Drinmore Chase. The fact that he's a novice is slightly off putting, however, with just four chase runs to prepare him for this marathon jumpfest. Saying that, Niche Market was still technically a novice (albeit an extremely experienced one) last year, as was Butler's Cabin in 2007 (again with more experience).

Becauseicouldntsee is another novice but won by a distance here in a big field as recently as February from the useful Corskeagh Royale, and has a second in the four mile National Hunt Chase to his name too. Make note that two of the last three winners ran in that Cheltenham race prior to grabbing this prize.

Although Nostringsattached's Irish National-winning trainer, Jonjo O'Neill, is respected, the horse's form does not bear quite the same close scrutiny as others in the shortlist. He has winning form at around three miles, all on fast ground, and his overall profile is a touch less compelling. That said, he did win a Listed handicap chase at Market Rasen last Summer, and his pulling up behind Ballabriggs at Cheltenham was hardly a surprise, as it was his first run for more than six months.

Officier De Reserve has less to recommend him on recent form, but has dropped to an eye-catching rating as a result. He was far from knocked about last time in the William Hill Trophy at the Cheltenham Festival, and hails from the Grand National-winning yard of Mon Mome and Venetia Williams.

Hangover looks unlikely to stay and is readily passed over for this 3m5f epic.

Double Dizzy is a much more exposed, if no less interesting candidate. Housed in the same Somerset stable as last year's winner, Niche Market, this one has plenty of decent Cheltenham form, which has been a feature in the archive record of two of those three recent British winners. Cheltenham, like Fairyhouse, is an expansive undulating track with stiff fences that takes serious negotiation, so Dizzy's course form could well be material in the context of this contest.

Beaten twenty lengths in the Cross Country Chase behind A New Story, but bang there until the second last (i.e. around the 3m5f point); and just 2 1/2 lengths by the capable Duc De Regniere the time before at Kempton over an inadequate trip, if he gets into the final field, he looks primed to run a very big 'under the radar' race.

Operation Houdini will likely need more chicanery than his namesake to get into the race, and his Fairyhouse form and jumping bungles (including unseating in this race last year) make him a particularly 'brave' proposition. Not for me.

With the safety limit for runners set at 30, and Double Dizzy and Operation Houdini currently occupying positions 46 and 48 respectively in the preference list, there is potential for ante-post disappointment here. So it might serve well to try to find a bookmaker offering the 'non-runner, no bet' concession, or hold off from wagering until running plans are more certain.

If neither of the top two in the entries were to run, then the weights would go up at least four pounds if Synchronised ran, and seven pounds otherwise. This would obviously bring many more horses into the mix, again assuming they'd make the final thirty.

As things stand, my shortlist is Double Dizzy (33/1, might not get a run but has a lot going for him if he does); Alpha Ridge (20/1, Ladbrokes, as short at 14's elsewhere and advised at 25's in Irish Field last week); and, Becauseicouldntsee (12/1, might be a doubtful runner looking at the Betfair odds, so hold bet until the day).

With the odds on offer, a small speculative each way wager on Alpha Ridge could prove most rewarding.


And that's it for today. I've been recording video tutorials and planning the final stages of a collection of gratis training that should enable even the most technophobic newbie to get their first website up and running in about fifteen minutes (seriously, probably less). If you've always wondered if you could do it, or always wanted a platform from which to pontificate, or to scribble the occasional missive to the masses, follow me as I show you how for free...

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13 replies
  1. Avatar
    Kirst Cooper says:

    Dear matt,

    About this time last year you released some draw bias reports for the all weather tracks, which were very good. Are you planning on releasing updated versions, as I presume last years figures, were for last year!

    Many thanks


    • Avatar
      Matt Bisogno says:

      Hi Kirst

      Pressures of work mean I won’t be able to do this any time soon, but I have added it to the ‘to do’ list, and will endeavour to pull this together when I get a spare four hours or so.


      p.s. In the meantime, you might check out the excellent looking, which may well provide what you’re looking for.

  2. Avatar
    tom collins says:

    Hi Matt,
    How nice to come upon a site that is both literate and highly informative. You must be a saint to provide so much critical information to us struggling punters without a fee. One may as well stick a pin in the card as take the advice of most of the Tipsters published in the newspapers.

    Your informed blogs certainly encourage this penurious punter to still ‘have a go’ at the bookies. I probably would have surrendered my passion for a regular (small) punt but for your site – my pathetic pension could not afford my own guesstimates any longer.
    Thank you

  3. Avatar
    fred says:

    great analysis, but for all the stats, theres always a possibility of a major pile up remember Foinavon, there hasn’t been a major pile up for a while so this year maybe one is due, and for that reason, if it runs and if its fit, Gallant Nuit could win.

  4. Avatar
    Allen says:

    well well well matt,

    what have you done, the price collapse on your fancy for our national , a coincidence I DONT THINK, it has just become a good old fashioned irish public gamble!!

    be more than the FIELD lukin 4 your services shud u b successful

    • Avatar
      Matt Bisogno says:

      That’s a quite staggering punt Allen, from 25’s to 8’s, and surely because it was tipped up somewhere more prominent than here and in the Irish Field.
      I wouldn’t be rushing to back Alpha Ridge at 8/1 (best priced 10/1), but I’m happy enough with my voucher at near 30 on Betfair.

      Note also that they’ve taken out Becauseicouldntsee, no doubt he’s still knackered from Cheltenham.

      Double Dizzy looks quite likely to get in now, and the trainer clearly knows what’s required, so 33/1 still looks good value.


  5. Avatar
    colsey says:

    is it to early to do trends for the other two nationals
    your good so lets have a treble?

  6. Avatar
    Gary says:

    Hi Matt,i take on board all you say about ages etc but I still have to say A New Story at 20/1 is massive bearing in mind he’s run in the race 4 times and finished 3rd,UR,4th and 3rd last year to yours and Gav’s big tip Niche Market(i had £10ew each and £2.50 RFC last year 1st and 3rd 33/1 & 50/1 so close).He comes here on the back of some excellent runs over hurdles and then of course his fantastic win at Cheltenham(his first win for nearly 5 years)I know he’s 12 but to me he still seems enthusiastic enough and I can’t see him being out of the first 4.I’ll do him again this year with Gav’s trends selection and hope for the 1-2 this year all the best for know looking forward to the big one next saturday,again going completely against all the age stats I have backed Ollie Magern at 999/1 win and 99/1 place on Betfair,plus Maljimar who doesnt stay but then french breds couldnt win!

    • Avatar
      Matt Bisogno says:

      Hi Gary

      A New Story jumps and stays, but he’s no spring chicken, and there will be a MUCH faster pace at Fairyhouse than round Cheltenham’s Cross Country course.
      That said, he’s run some belting races and who can say whether he’ll run to a place again.

      The stats quoted are for winners only, rather than placed horses, and a few elder statesmen have hit the frame, especially from Michael Hourigan’s yard (he’s had five places from ten runners in the race, no winners).

      Re Ollie Magern, great old stick, should go pointing…


  7. Avatar
    Stuart Hazelwood says:

    Have used my system for a fun punt, as normally only used in Class 3 – 5 races, as it is the Irish National and it comes up with both of Willy Mullins horses.
    Equus Maximus and Ballytrim.


    • Avatar
      Matt Bisogno says:

      Hi Stuart

      Mullins continues his abominable record in the race, alas.


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