Tuesday 5 February 2019

Record 47 Irish-Trained Horses Among 112 Initial Entries for 2019 Grand National

Irish-trained horses have won eight of the last 20 runnings of the Grand National, and Emerald Isle raiders account for a record high 47 of the 112 initial entries for the Aintree showpiece on Saturday, 6 April 2019. 

That equates to just shy of 42 per cent of potential runners, although a maximum field of 40 can go to post in the extended 4m 2f Merseyside marathon. Last year, Ireland had the first four home in the Grand National and all of those horses could line-up again. 

Despite Oddschecker reporting odds being slashed for no Irish runners at Aintree due to Brexit, the 2018 winner Tiger Roll heads the ante-post betting with most bookmakers. History is against Gordon Elliott's Gigginstown House Stud-owned gelding, however, as he seeks to emulate Red Rum and be only the second dual Grand National winner in modern times. 

Tiger Roll is something of a Cheltenham Festival specialist. Like erstwhile stablemate Cause Of Causes before him, he won both the four-mile National Hunt Chase as a novice over fences and later the three and three-quarter miles Cross Country Chase. 

A similar campaign is on the cards for Elliott's plucky long-distance horse, who previously won the Triumph Hurdle over 2m as a juvenile. Tiger Roll seems to come alive in the spring, but winning back-to-back Grand Nationals would definitely be a career best.

Pleasant Company, who was a diminishing head runner-up for Willie Mullins 12 months ago, again looks to be trained with the race in mind. As with Tiger Roll, bookies' ante-post prices vary for the Malcolm Denmark owned 11-year-old who has twice completed the unique Grand National course with its spruce covered fences. 

Leading Irish owner JP McManus often has more than one iron in the fire at Aintree, and potentially joining last year's fourth Anibale Fly - who again looks sure to be high in the weights - could be Enda Bolger's Cross Country specialist Auvergnat. 

The French-bred nine-year-old proved his stamina on the Bank Course at Punchestown on his first try over four miles back in April when prevailing by a neck over stable companion Josies Orders. Auvergnat has since followed in the hoofprints of Tony Martin's Anibale Fly by winning the valuable Paddy Power Handicap Chase at the Leopardstown Christmas Festival. Both of these McManus owned Irish raiders are available at a general 33/1 in the 2019 Grand National betting prior to the weights being published on February 12. Others sporting his famous green and gold hooped silks could also line-up on Merseyside. 

Besides Tiger Roll, Elliott's County Meath stable holds 21 further entries including last year's third Bless The Wings, who is now aged 14. Of those, 11 are Gigginstown owned and they feature the 2018 Irish Grand National winner General Principle.

Just like Tiger Roll at Aintree, he prevailed by a head in the Fairyhouse Easter Festival feature. Irish National runner-up Isleofhopendreams and the fifth horse home Folsom Blue, now both 12-year-olds, get entries here too. 

Mullins only has 10 for the Grand National, and joining Pleasant Company and Isleofhopendreams is Rathvinden - the National Hunt Chase winner from the 2018 Cheltenham Festival. Both Rathvinden and General Principle are 33/1 chances for Aintree. 

Pairofbrowneyes and Polidam are seasoned handicappers from County Carlow handler Mullins' stable, and his potential Grand National team also includes former Ladbrokes Trophy winner Total Recall. 

Joseph O'Brien still has his whole training career ahead of him, but the son of all-conquering Flat racing master Aidan has a potentially well-weighted sort in Vieux Movran. The 10-year-old French import was second to Auvergnat in Paddy Power Chase - improving from fifth last season behind Anibale Fly and running off 4lb higher.

A number of the Irish jumps scene's smaller yards are also represented by initial Grand National entries. Sandymount Duke and Magic Of Light hail from the stable of Cheltenham Gold Cup-winning trainer Jessica Harrington. 

Henry de Bromhead has a couple for Gigginstown entered too in Valseur Lido and Sub Lieutenant. Ross O'Sullivan, husband of former crack women's amateur jockey Katy Walsh, also has two in Baie Des Iles - who got round Aintree and was last of 12 to finish last year - and Irish Grand National seventh Call It Magic.