By Declan Meagher
Declan Meagher is the author of the website learnbetwin.com.
3.15 - Rathbarry & Glenview Studs Novice Hurdle (Grade 2)
This race is a Grade Two novices hurdle, and while a few of the runners have some decent form to their name, one stands out for me and that is the JP McManus owned Sutton Place.
After winning a bumper at Fairyhouse in January he beat today’s rival Royal Caviar by six and-a-half lengths in a listed hurdle last time. The pace was on the steady side that day, and three of them took the last upsides, so Sutton Place did extremely well to win by so far, and looked value for extra.
Even the bare form should be enough to go close here, he already looks better than that, and has plenty of scope to do better still. He looks worth a bet at the current 9/4.
3.50 - Fleet Connect Handicap Hurdle
Here we have a two mile and six-furlong handicap hurdle, with twenty declared runners. As usual with races like this, you could make some sort of a case for plenty of them, but two that I like are Roll It Out and Aengus. Roll it Out was a strong finishing second at Navan over two and-a-half miles, before going down in a driving finish over three miles at Navan in November.
The form of that has worked out extremely well, with the winner Prince of Scars (above) going on to win a Grade One, while the second ran very well in the handicap that Roll It Out disappointed in next time.
He’s been given a break since then though, and considering he stayed on over two and-half-miles, before travelling extremely well and looking sure to win that Navan race over three miles, then this trip could be perfect for him. He does look a little tricky though so will need delivering late.
Aengus lost his form a bit, before bouncing back over two miles and three furlongs last time, and the way he stayed on into second after the last, having had plenty of horses travelling better than him turning in, suggests this step up in trip is a big plus.
He hasn’t many miles on the clock and off a mark just two pounds higher he must have a good chance. Roll It Out is currently 12/1, while Aengus is 14/1, and both are good each-way bets at those prices.
4.20 - Keelings Irish Strawberry Hurdle (Grade 2)
The 4.20 is a Grade Two hurdle, run over two and-a-half miles, won last year by Dedigout, and he is favourite to repeat that victory. This trip is a minimum for him, but this had a better field last year, when he won well, so if he arrives here in the same form he should win.
The concern is that he has only the one run since, when last of three runners at Navan in February. He came there travelling quite well approaching the second last though, and in fading after the last he ran like a horse who just needed the race.
The danger on form is Taglietelle who was recently fourth in the Pertemp’s at Cheltenham off a mark of 154, but that race had twenty-four runners, and was over three miles, so he will find these conditions very different, and has a quick turnaround here too.
A bigger danger might be Gwencily Berbas who hasn’t run since he was a good third to Arctic Fire in the Hatton’s Grace at Fairyhouse back in November. He is unexposed at trips beyond two miles, and has scope to do better.
I think there must be a very good chance Dedigout will come back to his best here, and if he does he will take an awful lot of beating. I would have him a bit shorter than his current 9/4, and he looks worth a small win bet at that.
5.0 - Boylesports Irish Grand National Chase (Grade 1)
The Boylesports Irish Grand National run over three miles and five furlongs is the big race at Fairyhouse on Easter Monday.
There are twenty-nine declared runners, and while the top weight is rated just 152, indicating a lack of established top class horses, there are quite a few unexposed potential improvers in the race, and it would be a surprise if a few of them don’t go on to be rated a good bit higher in the future.
Bonny Kate is favourite as I write this, and with just five chase starts so far, winning the last three of them, she is one of the aforementioned possible improvers. She unseated on her chase debut at Down Royal, following that with a second at Navan, before winning at Fairyhouse, Punchestown and Limerick, over trips ranging from two miles five and half furlongs, to three and a half miles.
Her only handicap win was over the three and-a-half-mile trip, and she appeared to stay it well, going away again after the last for a six length win.
Bonny Kate followed up that handicap victory off a mark of 125 with an easy win in a Grade 2 when dropped in trip last time. She gets to run off 137 here, and that is clearly a rating she could be much better than.
Cause of Causes and Definite Ruby are non-runners in today's #IrishGrandNational - Live on RTÉ2 at 5pm— RTÉ Racing (@RTEracing) March 28, 2016
The trip should be okay, and could even bring about more improvement. The only slight concern with her chance is that she has had things her own way in front for those wins, and her jumping will surely be put under more pressure in this big field.
Venitien De Mai is another lightly raced contender, with just four chase starts to his name, winning the last two. When he won at Down Royal over two and-a half-miles he looked sure to improve for a longer trip, and duly backed that theory up when winning a three-mile handicap chase off 127 last time.
The pace was steady enough, with the field still well bunched jumping the second last, so he did very well to win by six lengths, with another seven back to the third.
He clearly needs to prove himself over the extra five furlongs of this race, especially since his only run over three miles wasn’t a true test, but he looked strongest at the finish that day, and he is just as likely to improve for it, then not stay the longer distance.
When you need to find improvement to win a race, having a variable with plenty of upside is good, even if there is also a chance that variable could end up being a negative.
Mala Beach (above) has fallen in two of his seven chase starts, including at the second last at Fairyhouse last time, when he was in front, and looking sure to win in a Grade 2. Before that he was second in the Thyestes at Gowran Park, and may have won had he not made a mistake at the second last.
He was upsides with every chance jumping the last though, and seemed to just get outstayed on the run in, not really shaping like a horse that wanted an extra half a mile. He looks well handicapped, and should run well, but I’d question whether this will prove to be his optimal trip.
Another Hero was a decent hurdler, but has improved straight away for the switch to fences, and the step up in trip to three miles. Last time at Ludlow he travelled extremely well and sauntered into the lead before the second last, he seemed to idle badly in between the last two before going away again on the run-in.
He’s another that needs to prove himself over this longer trip, and his tendency to jump out to his left late on last time is a concern, but off a mark just five pound higher than that Ludlow win, he looks a very well handicapped horse.
Killer Crow has been running well over trips shorter than three miles, and didn’t get a chance to show his form when he did try a trip this far, when he was held up in a very slowly run affair that turned into a sprint. If he does prove effective over this trip he would have a chance.
In recent Irish Nationals, a good sound jumper, that was reasonably well handicapped, and stayed the trip well, had a decent chance of winning, but this year’s race has more unexposed, improving types, and I’d be surprised if one of them don’t step up to the mark.
The betting of 8/1 the field suggests a very competitive race, but I think horses like Bonny Kate, Venitien De Mai, and Another Hero stand out, and should be shorter.
At the current prices I think it’s worth backing Bonny Kate at 8/1, and Another Hero at 14/1. Back both each way, but make sure to back them with a bookmaker offering five places.