Paddy’s Day at Ayr

Ayr’s two-day Coral Scottish Grand National Meeting begins this afternoon, with the showpiece taking place on Saturday.

The race originally known as the ‘West of Scotland Grand National’, was first run at a course near Houston, Renfrewshire in 1858. In 1867 the race moved to Bogside Racecourse, near Irvine and became known as the Scottish National in 1880. Bogside closed in 1965, when the event was transferred to its current home at Ayr.

Several horses have won nationals at both Ayr and Aintree, but only one has completed the double in the same year, and that was of course the extraordinary Red Rum in 1974.

A week ago in testing ground at Aintree only two of the 16 that finished the Grand National carried more than 11 stone. The 2015 winner Many Clouds was one of those, and he trailed home last. The ground is currently described as soft at Ayr, and with showers forecast for today, chances are that the national on Saturday will prove something of a slog.

It’s rare that the Scottish National is run on anything other than decent ground, yet still only three of the last 15 winners have managed to haul more than 11 stone to victory. Godsmejudge in 2013 carried 11st 3 lbs to success, whilst back in 2004 the wonderful Grey Abbey managed to claim victory having lugged top weight of 11st 12lbs. Trends suggest that Saturday’s victor will carry less than 11 stone.

Age in these marathon events is always a factor. With 30 runners going to post on Saturday, a horse with plenty of chasing experience has a huge advantage. Godsmejudge and Beshabar were the notable exceptions to that rule in the last 10 renewals. Only one seven-year-old has took the race in the last dozen years, and that was the aforementioned trend basher Godsmejudge. The rest have been a pretty even spread of eight, nine, 10 and 11 year-olds.

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Vics Canvas ran an absolute cracker last week at Aintree, but generally the senior citizen should be avoided in such events. Only one horse over 11 has hit the target in this race since 1966, though a strong performance from the former Grand National winner Pineau De Re would come as no surprise.

As well as discounting those carrying plenty of weight, there’s also a case for focusing on those from the very bottom end of the starting list. In the last 10 renewals, only two have carried more than 10st 7lbs to victory, with seven of those carrying 10st 4lbs or less. Indeed, horses from outside the handicap have managed two wins in that time frame.

So having decided that we need a horse of between eight and 11 years of age, with plenty of chasing experience, carrying less than 11 stone, let’s take a closer look at this year’s contenders.

Gigginstown have dominated events in recent weeks, taking two nationals and the Gold Cup in a stunning spell of success. They have the favourite for tomorrow’s race in Measureofmydreams. Willie Mullins trains the eight-year-old, with Bryan Cooper taking the ride. He’s a classy sort, and proved he’ll handle the trip when taking third in Cheltenham’s National Hunt Chase. Native River was second that day, and franked the form at Aintree. The only negative, is that this fella has only had three outings over fences. It’s a hell of a task for one so inexperienced.

Cause Of Causes represents further powerful connections in JP McManus. Fresh from a romp at Cheltenham, when scooting clear to win the Kim Muir, he is also a former winner of the National Hunt Chase. Often held up in his races, he’s likely to be delivered late in the piece. It’s a tough ask with him having to lump top weight over the four-mile trip. As good as he clearly is, I find him hard to fancy for this.

Seeyouatmidnight would be a popular winner in the north. Sandy Thomson’s chaser will appreciate the easier ground conditions having struggled to land a blow in the RSA last time. He’s always looked a thorough stayer, though is yet to truly prove it over fences. He has to carry 11st 6lbs, and has limited experience as a chaser with just five outings to his name. He’s therefore a ‘no no’ on the trends front, and has to be struck off my list.

Royale Knight is a really interesting contender. He’s trained by the man behind Pineau De Re, Dr Richard Newland, and has plenty of experience over these marathon trips. He ran a respectable race in the 2015 Aintree national, when finishing sixth behind Many Clouds, having probably been outpaced on livelier ground that day. He’s a winner of the Borders National and twice a winner of the Durham National at Sedgefield. Those victories came on a more testing surface. He’s the right age, and sneaks in under the 11 stone barrier.

The same can be said of Emma Lavelle’s classy chaser Shotgun Paddy. The nine-year-old has dropped down the handicap in recent times, and ran poorly in the Midlands National at Uttoxeter last time. However, he was carrying 11st 11lbs that day, and only has 10st 13lbs on his back tomorrow. It’ll be the first time he’s carried under 11 stone in his career, and though he’s an unpredictable sort, I’d give him a huge chance. He was third in this year’s Welsh National and then second in the Eider at Newcastle, showing that he retains plenty of form. I can hardly believe that he is currently a 25/1 shot.

From lower down the handicap, Mouse Morris will be hoping for an unprecedented treble, when he sends out his diminutive chaser Folsom Blue, in a bid to add the Scottish to his Irish and Aintree National successes. The horse is not without a chance, having run respectably in several staying events in Ireland. He has finished fourth and fifth in two Irish Nationals, and is likely to be in the hunt at the business end. At 25/1 he’s the right price for each-way punters, but I’m not sure he’s quite good enough to win the race.

Alvarado is another that missed the cut for the Aintree showpiece, and it would be nuts to discount this fella. The veteran is an out and out stayer and is likely to be doing his best work late on. Further rain would not aid his chances, as his better performances have come on a sounder surface.

Nigel Twiston-Davies sends Cogry north for the event, and should he get in at the bottom of the handicap he could prove another interesting contender. He ran well in last year’s race before coming down late on. He clearly appreciates a trip having finished third in the Midlands National last month. He’s still only seven, though has 10 chase outings to his name. He’s another each-way player.

As always, finding the winner of such a race is a tall order. I’m taking two against the field, with Royale Knight and Shotgun Paddy my each-way tips. The latter is undoubtedly my main fancy.

Monday Musings: Aintree to Newmarket…

Monday Musings

By Tony Stafford

You analyse a race like the Grand National, you look to previous form over the track, recent well-being and all the other sub- and semi-conscious considerations and make your choice.

Then the jockey goes off in front. Anyone who cares to seek out my opinion will know l thought Saint Are had a great chance and listening to his trainer Tom George beforehand, it was obvious last year’s runner-up was going there with maximum confidence. So then, on ground which probably was softer than ideal, Paddy Brennan decides to go off in the front group and was dead in the water by halfway.

Not that there was any suggestion that Rule the World was anything other than a deserving winner especially for his trainer Mouse Morris. My friend Wendy Normile from Coolmore used to work for Mouse and maybe still rides out there occasionally, so it’s a bit embarrassing that when she asked me what I liked for Saturday I said Saint Are rather than: “Why don’t you back your man?” Hopefully she was on both of them.

Wendy’s had some tragedy in her family’s life so it would be easy for her to sympathise, as everyone in Ireland has with Mouse’s loss of his son, Tiffer, at the ridiculously young age of 30 last year to carbon monoxide poisoning.

Mouse has been one of the top big-race trainers for many years. Michael O’Leary, owner of the winner, said after the race that Mouse doesn’t have many horses – unlike Gordon Elliott for example – but does so well with those he has. Maybe the boss of Ryanair should divert a few more of the drinks and snacks revenues on his planes Mouse’s way?

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The Willie Mullins/ Paul Nicholls match-up is in danger of totally fizzling out, with Mullins more than £200k ahead, even though he had the odd reverse, for instance Vautour, last week.

My favourite winner – Douvan it’s true was spectacular – was Apple’s Jade in the top four-year-old race. I liked her for the Triumph at Cheltenham after her brave win first time after her importation from France when she won her only race at 21-1. She was 12’s at Leopardstown and the same price in the Triumph and it was noticeable then that she kept on just as well as Ivanovich Gorbatov after the last once the O’Brien horse had swept past.

The pair drew well clear, but this time on softer ground, Apple’s Jade sprinted away to win by 41 lengths. I’d be running in the Champion Hurdle if she was mine whatever anyone else thought or the claims of anything else, such was the metronomic nature of her galloping and jumping.

Her sire, Saddler Maker, has had literally no impact as a Flat sire, but extremely good results with his jumpers. This one to me is as exciting as Annie Power and more so than any of the other Mullins mares such as Vroum Vroum Mag.

We’ve got Ayr coming up on Friday and Saturday and Sandown the following weekend to bring down the curtain until the new jump season starts on Sunday week, but today with the Craven Breeze-Up horses going through their galloping motions on Racecourse Side and the three days’ racing and two after-racing portions of sales, the new Flat season will finally be under way.

With the going on most tracks still resembling a ploughed field, it will be good to gain the benefit of Newmarket’s legendary drainage properties for the early Classic trials. The Nell Gwyn, Craven and to a lesser extent the Free Handicap and later in the week the Greenham and Dubai Duty Free (Fred Darling) at Newbury will get those horses which may not yet be at the required level on the track with a fortnight or so to the two Guineas races.

Meanwhile, the O’Brien stable seems to be a little more forward than hitherto and when it is considered they are labouring on very unfavourable ground at home in Ireland, the prognoses for Air Force Blue and Minding appear to be excellent.

Both won their end-of-season engagements in emphatic style over the same track, and Minding’s four-and-a-half length win in the Fillies’ Mile, nowadays run over the Guineas course and distance rather than Ascot, was exceptional.

She has stamina in abundance and will not mind it if the ground remains on the slower side, but Air Force Blue would probably prefer a faster surface. Buratino, the one horse to beat the “2,000” favourite in 2015 was warming up last week for his imminent assignment at Haydock as part of a Johnston reconnaissance team, and there might well be more of the same on the Rowley Mile.

The ground at Kingsley Park on the grass has been very testing and far from ideal for horses with Classic pretensions, but no doubt Johnston will test impressive debut juvenile winner Sutter County from his forward and already talented two-year-old team in Wednesday’s novice stakes. The first of them to run, Sutter County won by nine lengths at Wolverhampton and faces eight opponents at HQ on his first turf run.

The innovation, replacing many of the maiden races in 2016 by novice events in which winners under penalty can run, will be a big help in educating horses before they lock horns with the best early sorts from the other major stables at the Royal meeting.

In the past, very few races were suitable for good winners – Ascot’s Garter (now Ascot) Stakes and Sandown’s National Stakes were the most obvious routes to take – but now trainers can be selective and if they happen to win first time in lowly company, penalties for winners can be relatively light.

I’m hoping the ground dries out a little for Ayr on Friday when Notnowsam is being aimed at the novice handicap chase for which only nine horses have been entered. His chase record reads 12222, the last of them a nice effort at Kempton after a mid-season break. Still only five, he is doing well at Dan Skelton’s and hopefully can end that run of near- and not-so-near misses since his win at Warwick on debut for the stable back in May.

Ray Tooth, fresh from a nice week in Antigua, lucky devil, also has Adrakhan set up for Stratford on Sunday on what would be his last chance in a novice handicap hurdle, but the trainer is worried that the ground will be a bog! Who’d have thought it, midwinter ground on a summer-jumps track in mid-April?

Mouse Rules The World

As a novice hurdler he’d chased home The New One in the Neptune at the Cheltenham Festival, and was touted as a future Gold Cup winner.

Rule The World finally fulfilled that huge potential when winning the 2016 Grand National; incredibly his first success in 14 attempts over fences. A shuddering error at the fourth last failed to halt his momentum, and approaching the final fence his young jockey David Mullins had him on the tail of the leading pair. At the elbow three horses ran side by side, but it was Rule The World who stayed on powerfully to sweep past both The Last Samuri and Vics Canvas in a pulsating finish.

An overwhelmed winning trainer Mouse Morris found it difficult to talk when interviewed after the win. He had won the Irish National less than two weeks earlier and was clearly overcome. Speaking a little later he said: “I’d have settled for third and been delighted with it. I think we got a bit of help from someone today. He’s had two fractured pelvises and I thought before that he was the best I’d ever had - he probably was. He’s a typically National horse in that he’s big and jumps well, and has that little bit of class. It’s a dream to think he’d win a Grand National.”

Both the young winning jockey and owner Michael O’Leary were keen to praise the trainer's efforts. David Mullins, nephew of trainer Willie, is only 19 and was riding in the Grand National for the first time. He said: “Coming across the Melling Road I knew I was going well and at the second last I heard Davy Russell give me a shout, saying ‘Go on David!’, but it was only at the line I realised I’d done it. All credit to Mouse, he's a genius and the best man in the world for the big day. It's brilliant.”

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“This horse could have been Gold Cup standard but for the injuries he has suffered,” said Gigginstown supremo O’Leary. “He’s nine now and after that we could retire him - I wouldn't want to bring him back here again, and Mouse will have to decide how he comes out of this race, but if he never runs again who cares?”

Trainer of the second, Kim Bailey, knows that his eight-year-old has time on his side, and is likely to have several more cracks at the ‘big one’. Bailey said: “There’s only one place you want to be at Aintree and I was lucky enough to be there with Mr Frisk. I hate being second, I can’t even explain the feeling. He travelled brilliantly through the race, the rain wouldn’t have helped but what a great run. He never made a mistake the whole way round. I hope we haven’t had our share of winning and it will be our turn next year.”

He added: “It’s the longest run-in you can possibly imagine. I was standing here screaming - my voice has gone. We’ve beaten the third horse, but another horse has come on the outside from nowhere. I’m just so proud. We’ll do it all over again next year 12lb worse off.”

Arguably the most astounding performance came from the 100/1 shot and 13-year-old Vics Canvas, who at the elbow looked capable of winning. Trained by Dermot McLoughlin, the veteran chaser is part-owned by At The Races presenter Gary O’Brien and had won the Paddy Power Cork Grand National back in 2014. The marathon trip and testing conditions proved ideal for the Old Vic gelding, but he just found a couple a little too quick for him at the business end.

Reflecting on a thrilling performance, O'Brien spoke of what could have been, when saying: “There was just a moment when he jumped the last and he headed The Last Samuri for two or three strides that I thought he might win, but then I looked behind and I could see Rule The World in the slipstream of the two of them.

Speaking on Sunday he added: “The way he ran yesterday it is probably hard to think about retiring him as in the run-up to the race all the talk was about it being one of the strongest ever Grand Nationals and if he had not made that mistake at Becher's first time round he might have been closer.”

The 2015 winner Many Clouds trailed home last of the finishers having held every chance five fences from home. The combination of a blunder at that fence, along with hauling top-weight in testing ground put paid to his chances. Oliver Sherwood spoke of a return next year, and given a sounder surface you wouldn’t count him out.

As for Gigginstown, an incredible spell that has gleaned two nationals and a Gold Cup in less than a month once again displays the firepower they possess when it comes to staying chasers.

Conor O’Dwyer – Festival Glory Days

Michael O’Leary will travel to Cheltenham next week with an outstanding chance of winning the most prestigious prize, the Gold Cup.

His Gigginstown silks will be carried by two of the top five in the betting, and the pair of ‘Dons’ may yet be accompanied in their quest by Road To Riches and Valseur Lido. Certainly if Noel Meade has any say at all, last year’s Gold Cup third will be heading to Prestbury Park for another crack at the main event. The Willie Mullins trained Valseur Lido was cruising when tipping up at Leopardstown in the Irish Gold Cup, and his trainer also favours the blue riband.

It is without doubt Gigginstown’s most powerful team of staying chasers, and though nothing in this game is certain, O’Leary must feel that this is his greatest opportunity of adding to that lone victory from War of Attrition back in 2006.

On that occasion, the son of Presenting, ran on powerfully up the famous hill to defeat the Grand National winner Hedgehunter. He’d always shaped as if likely to make a stunning staying chaser, and so it proved.

Trained by Mouse Morris and frequently ridden by Conor O’Dwyer, he had finished second to Brave Inca in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle of 2004. Sent off at 33/1 that day, he ran an absolute cracker to push the favourite all the way, only going down by a neck as the two pulled seven lengths clear of the third. That performance probably fooled connections into believing that he could mix it over the minimum trip when sent over fences.

His first campaign therefore as a chaser proved a little disappointing, when he failed to make a major impact over an inadequate two miles. He could only manage seventh in the Arkle Chase, though did win over the minimum trip at the Punchestown Festival.

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The following winter proved far more successful when stepped up in distance. His second place finish in the Lexus Chase behind Beef or Salmon proved that he was capable of mixing it with the very best staying chasers. Given a break and freshened up for a tilt at the Gold Cup, he arrived in the Cotswolds as the 15/2 third favourite of the 22 runners.

He again locked horns with Beef or Salmon, and on this occasion, on a sounder surface, proved far too good. Beef or Salmon was again a huge disappointment at a track he always failed to master. In five visits to Prestbury Park, he only managed to run to his best on one occasion; when fourth to Best Mate in the Gold Cup of 2004.

“You dream about these things,” said Mouse Morris after the win. “I've always had a lot of faith in him. I have always said he is one of the best I have ever had and I think he proved that.”

The victory was a second in the Gold Cup for jockey Conor O'Dwyer, having won on Imperial Call 10 years earlier. He said: “It was an easy ride, he pinged the last two fences when he just stood off and he loves racing. This is an emotional moment and we made the right decision to come here - it has paid off. He jumped super and we had a great run - I had to come wide but he is only a second-season novice so I didn't want to be too tight on him either. When I wanted to go he was able to go, which was a huge plus.”

War Of Attrition followed up at Punchestown in the Guinness Gold Cup, and looked set to dominate for years to come. Unfortunately the following winter he met with a setback after a disappointing run in the Lexus Chase. He spent almost two years off the track, and although he returned to win a number of graded events, he was never quite the same horse.

For his regular partner Conor O’Dwyer, the famous win in 2006 came during a purple patch in the rider’s career. He’d shot to prominence riding Imperial Call to victories in the 1996 Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup at Leopardstown and then the Cheltenham Gold Cup. The win at Leopardstown was the first time O'Dwyer had ridden the horse.

An ecstatic jockey waved an Irish Tricolour as he rode back to the winner's enclosure at Cheltenham, having given Ireland their first win in the race since Dawn Run 10 years earlier. The scenes of celebration were quite incredible. When asked for his comments, trainer Fergus Sutherland appeared lost for words but then said: “He put them in their place didn't he. I've thought this horse could win a Gold Cup since he was five and he has improved every day this year.”

Several years later another famous partnership brought more glory the way of O’Dwyer. The ride on the Dessie Hughes trained Hardy Eustace came about after the tragic death of regular partner Kieran Kelly, after a fall at Kilbeggan in 2003. The young jockey suffered severe head injuries and died in hospital.

Kelly had been on-board when Hardy Eustace took the Royal and SunAlliance Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham in 2003. The following year O’Dwyer rode a flawless race in the Champion Hurdle; setting perfect fractions up front and successfully holding off Rooster Booster by five lengths. “I thought that big days like this had passed me by over the last two or three years,” said O’Dwyer, “and obviously what happened to Kieran makes it very emotional. It was a spare ride for me in a way - it should have been Kieran's.”

They had landed the prize at odds of 33/1, but as history repeatedly tells us; a love of the track often proves vital at the Festival. The pairing followed up at Punchestown just a month later, proving that Cheltenham had been no fluke.

The following year the pair arrived at Cheltenham looking to make it three Festival wins on the bounce. One opponent in particular managed to split public opinion. Harchibald arrived at Cheltenham having won a Fighting Fifth and a Christmas Hurdle, and was one of the most talented two mile hurdlers around. However, he was not without his quirks and his resolve when the going got tough was questionable. He was ridden to arrive on the scene at the last moment, and the man charged with the task of getting him there was the master of the waiting ride, Paul Carberry.

When he cruised alongside O’Dwyer after the last flight, victory looked assured. However, in one of the most incredible finishes, Hardy Eustace was galvanised for one final lunge at the line, and somehow managed to repel his enigmatic challenger, with Brave Inca a neck further back in third. The race-notes say it all about the gallant winner, ‘made all, strongly pressed, found extra’.

Further high profile wins followed, but having taken out his training license in 2007, O’Dwyer began to reduce his number of rides. It’s fair to say that training horses has proved rather less successful than riding them, though that wonderful period that brought partnerships with War Of Attrition and Hardy Eustace was always going to be tough to follow.

Smad is Simply Smashing

Sensational Smad Place

Sensational Smad Place

Smad Place shone brightest on a ‘Grey Day’ at Newbury. Alan King nailed the preparation this time round, and his gorgeous eight-year-old delivered a power-packed display to win the Hennessy Gold Cup.

He is yet another horse to prosper from a breathing op with the old epiglottis getting the treatment. That clearly played a part in this demolition job, along with a more aggressive racing style and that all important prep-run at Kempton earlier in the month.

Rarely has a horse been so dominant in this most prestigious event. Prominent from the off, the stunning grey slugged it out with Fingal Bay for much of the race, with jockey Wayne Hutchinson sending him to the front with a full circuit to go. He gradually got the field on the stretch; spring-heeled at his fences, relentlessly and remorselessly applying the pressure. By the second last fence the race was all but over, and a stunning leap at the last sealed the deal.

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After the race an exhilarated Wayne Hutchinson said: “I'm absolutely thrilled to bits. He was fab and it's all come together this year. He loved it out in front at Kempton and I said 'can I do the same please'. He didn't miss a beat.”

For trainer Alan King, this was the second ‘Big-Saturday’ success in just three weeks, following on from Annacotty’s win in the Paddy Power at Cheltenham. He was clearly taken aback by the display, saying: “We hoped for a good run but that took my breath away. Full credit to Wayne - I'm not sure those were the tactics we discussed! We learnt from last year and giving him a prep he's a different horse. He deserved a big one and we learnt from Kempton that he likes being up there. It was a ballsy ride.”

Of those in behind, favourite and top-weight Saphir Du Rheu still held every chance turning for home, but faded in the closing stages to a creditable fifth place. His jumping wasn’t foot perfect and a lack of chasing experience was certainly detrimental to his chances. The Gold Cup in March is still the target, and it would be unwise to right him off this early in the campaign. He’s sure to improve as the season progresses, and is undoubtedly a talented horse.

Fingal Bay has been so difficult to keep right over the past few years, and ran a terrific race. I’m not certain he got home in these conditions, and he looked a tired horse over the last two fences. If Philip Hobbs can keep him fit there’s a valuable handicap to be won before the winter is over.

I was fortunate enough to be watching the race just a short distance from First Lieutenant’s trainer Mouse Morris. As the field approached the third last Morris became as animated as he probably gets, grasping for his binoculars as his charge moved through to challenge. I reached for my camera hoping to snap an exuberant trainer doing cartwheels as his beloved chaser charged to a famous victory. Sadly for his trainer, First Lieutenant was unable to bridge the gap, though he did finish a gallant third, providing promise of an exciting season to come.

Theatre Guide was the only horse from off the pace able to land a serious blow, when passing battle-weary opponents to grab second spot. “I’m very happy,” said a thrilled trainer Colin Tizzard. “It was so much like when he came third in the race two years ago. He’ll go for the Welsh National now.”

For the winner, it seems likely that he will next head to Cheltenham in January for the Cotswold Chase, before another shot at the Gold Cup in March. As short as 10/1 in places for chasing’s ‘Blue Riband’, should he arrive in the same shape as at Newbury he would surely make his presence felt in the great race.

The Kerry National – Can Rule The World leave Morris Dancing?

Listowel set to beat the weather

Listowel set to beat the weather

The Listowel Festival is taking one heck of a pounding with the last two days lost to the weather.

The meeting known as the ‘Harvest Festival’ was extended to seven days back in 2002 and is the highlight of the season at the scenic County Kerry track. A mix of Flat and Jumps ensures the week appeals to all racing fans.

After an inspection yesterday afternoon, hopes were high that racing would take place today. It would come as a huge relief to the organisers as they are set to stage the racing highlight of the week, the Guinness Kerry National Handicap Steeplechase worth €175,000.

The race has gone to a host of quality horses over the years. Dorans Pride took the event back in 1997. Trained by Michael Hourigan, he became a classy hurdler before his successful chasing career. In 1995 he cruised to a stunning win in the Stayers’ Hurdle (now the World Hurdle) at the Cheltenham Festival.

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Sent over fences his victories in the Drinmore Novice Chase, the Powers Gold Cup and the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup were notable. But he is probably most famous for his incredible run of success in the Morris Oil Chase, now the Clonmel Oil Chase. He took the event in four successive years from 1997 to 2000.

There have been other notable winners of Listowel’s Kerry National. In 2002 Barry Geraghty rode Monty’s Pass to victory, and the following April had a dream ride on the horse to take Aintree’s showpiece in style.

Today’s renewal includes last year’s winner, the 12-year-old Your Busy. That win came on decent ground and off a 10lb lower handicap mark. It was a famous victory for jockey Katie Walsh, and she retains the ride. He did win at the track back in June, that time over hurdles on testing ground, but this looks a tough ask.

Champion trainer Willie Mullins is well represented with Ruby Walsh taking the ride on race favourite The Paparrazi Kid. He ran well to finish second in the Galway Plate back in July, his first run in nine months. He’s had his setbacks since looking a promising sort back in the winter of 2013, when as a novice chaser he was good enough to beat Felix Yonger. Presumably now fit and well, his run at Galway should see him spot on for this.

Mouse Morris also has his share of runners, with Rule The World probably the most notable. He looked to be mounting a huge challenge in the Galway Plate when slipping up between the last two fences. If running to that level today he looks certain to be involved in the finish. He’s undoubtedly a classy gelding and will be ridden by David Mullins who takes a valuable 3lbs off his back.

Bryan Cooper will be on-board another Morris trained-Gigginstown owned gelding, the progressive seven-year-old Ravished. There’s every chance that he remains on a favourable handicap mark, and it would be no surprise to see this son of Oscar running a huge race.

Another for the powerful connections who is hard to ignore despite his generous odds is Akorakor. His form ties in closely with Ravished, and though he lacks experience, he’s a lovely big horse with huge potential over fences.

In truth, the race is as competitive as ever, and it’s hard to rule out any of the 20 or so runners. For the crowds that flock to the track, most will simply be thrilled to be watching any racing at all. Following the loss of action on Monday and Tuesday, Horse Racing Ireland has sensibly announced a further day’s racing at the track on Sunday.

Let’s hope the weather plays its part and the Listowel masses can enjoy the remainder of their festival.

Tipperary’s ‘Season Finale’



Summer racing draws to a close at Tipperary Racecourse, as they hold their ‘Season Finale’ meeting on Tuesday. Lying next to the Limerick Junction railway station, just two miles north of the town, the first recorded meeting at the racetrack was in September 1916.

The course stages both codes of racing, and is ideally placed to attract some of the very best trainers in Ireland. Over the years many equine greats have run at the track. In 2002, High Read more

Cooper faces summer on the sidelines

Bryan Cooper - out for four months

Bryan Cooper - out for four months

Young Irish jockey Bryan Cooper is having quite a year. The 20 year old burst into the consciousness of English racing fans with three victories at the Cheltenham Festival on Benefficient, Our Conor and Ted Veale. Read more

Aintree: Trainers To Note……..

Peter Bowen

Peter Bowen Often Does Well At Aintree....

With the three-day Aintree Grand National Meeting this week Andy Newton highlights six stables that have often done well with their runners at this fixture. Read more

China Rock To Miss Hennessy

After incurring a small setback, the Mouse Morris trained China Rock has been withdrawn from the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury on Saturday.



Although well backed since the announcement that jockey Barry Geraghty would be aboard for the ride, the trainer has now confirmed his charge will not take part in the prestigious event.

"I had to make a final decision this morning and I just wasn't 100% happy with him," said Morris.

"He would have had to travel today and I wasn't happy for him to do that.

"It's not a season-ending injury or anything like that, he's just going to have to miss this one.

"I hope he'll be all right to run at Christmas, probably in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown."