Gordon Elliott could have as many as 12 runners in the BoyleSports Irish Grand National on Monday – his biggest ever challenge for Ireland's richest steeplechase, which he will be attempting to win for the first time.
Leading trainer at the Cheltenham Festival for the second consecutive year, Elliott ran nine in the €500,000 Fairyhouse event a year ago when Bless The Wings, who had lost out by a short head in the 2016 running, again finished second.
Like Elliott, champion trainer Willie Mullins has yet to train an Irish National winner. He has six in the top 30, including Bobbyjo Chase winner Bellshill, and Pairofbrowneyes, who won the Leinster National on his first start for Mullins at Gowran Park this month.
Three of Elliott's acceptors – Outlander, Dounikos and Squouateur – ran at the Cheltenham Festival. The first-named pair were pulled up in the Gold Cup and the RSA Chase respectively and Squouateur finished third in the Kim Muir Chase.
Monbeg Notorious, winner of the Thyestes Chase in January, the 2016 Galway Plate winner Lord Scoundrel and Folsom Blue, who landed the Grand National Trial at Punchestown last month, will also be in Elliott's team.
Bellshill and Pairofbrowneyes are currently 8-1 joint favourites with the race sponsor ahead of Monbeg Notorious, on 10-1, and Kim Muir Chase runner-up Mall Dini and Folsom Blue both on 12-1 with final declarations for the 3m 5f contest out tomorrow (Friday) morning.
Watch the Irish Grand National from Fairyhouse live on RTÉ2, Easter Monday, from 2.30pm