The Irish Grand National is the traditional highlight of Fairyhouse’s Easter Monday card, and the race takes place over 3 miles, 5 furlongs and 24 fences. It was first run in 1870 and has been won by legends of National Hunt Racing such as Arkle, Flying Bolt, and Desert Orchid, all of whom defied top-weight, which is no mean feat in a race that traditionally favours horses who carry light-weights.
It has also been won by several horses who have gone on to complete the Irish Grand National and Grand National double, though never in the same season, and those horses include Rhyme ‘n’ Reason, Bobbyjo, and Numbersixvalverde.
The most bizarre fact that the race has thrown up is that Winged Bee is the only dam whose offspring has produced a Derby winner and a Grand National winner in the same year. Both horses also belonged to the same owner, William Brophy.
Irish Grand National Trends
16 of the 18 winners this century carried 10-13 or less, the other two carried 11-4
38 of the last 40 horses to finish in the first four carried less than 11-0
9 of the last 10 winners were rated between 128 and 142, the other was rated 154
No horse older than 10 has won this century
7-year-olds have won 7 of the 18 runnings this century, and 3 of the last 4 runnings
Mouse Morris is the only trainer to have won two renewals this century
SP’s have ranged from 9/2 to 50/1
Only 3 of the last 18 winners were returned at single-figure SP’s
Neither Willie Mullins or Gordon Elliott has ever trained a winner of the Irish Grand National
No horse has won the race more than once since Brown Lad won it for a third time in 1978
Irish Grand National Preview
If recent weight-carrying statistics are to be upheld in the 2018 renewal, the horse that could be key to the chances of the handful of horses rated between 149 and 152 is Outlander. The classy 1-year-old is rated 163 and the Gigginstown Stud owned horses would shoulder top-weight if allowed to take his chance by trainer Gordon Elliott.
Outlander doesn’t look classy enough to defy top-weight, but what he would do is keep the weights down for several other decent horses owned by Gigginstown Stud such as Monbeg Notorious (152), Dounikos (151), Lord Scoundrel (150), and A Genie In A Bottle (149), the Willie Mullins’ trained favourite Belshill (149), Snow Falcon (149), Val De Ferbert (148), Moulin A Vent (145), and Mall Dini (143). However, as those horses would still be rated higher than 9 of the last 10 winners of the race, it could still pay to look elsewhere in the quest for value. Meanwhile, Glencairn View and Spider Web look too lowly-rated to win.
Statistics also suggest it could be wise to leave any horse older than 10 out of the equation, and this includes the 13-year-old Bless The Wings, and the 11-year-olds Folsom Blue, Forever Gold, Isleofhopeandreams, Kilcarry Bridge, Los Amigos, and The Paparrazi Kid.
The fact that no horse has won it twice for years also suggests Rogue Angel and Thunder And Roses won’t be winning. However, that prediction comes with trepidation as Thunder and Roses is 6lb lower than when fourth last year (after running in the Grand National 9 days earlier), and he’s trained by Mouse Morris, so I doubt he’ll be far away if turning up in good form.
If you want to be brave, then the stats also suggest you can remove all horses trained by Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott. One or both will surely train a winner soon, but that does allow us to remove an additional fifteen runners on top of some other runners we’ve already removed that are trained by them. Those fifteen are Children’s List, General Principle, Jetstream Jack, Kate Appleby Shies, Kemboy, Out Sam, Pairofbrowneyes, Patricks Park, Pleasant Company, Poormans Hill, Space Cadet, Squouateur, Sutton Manor, Tell Us More, and Woods Well. No 5-year-old has ever won so Tout Est Permis must go too.
It’s much harder to reduce the remaining runners using statistics, but six horses catch the eye for various reasons. Oscar Knight tops that list as he was a well-backed 12/1 shot last year but fell at the eighteenth fence when still holding every chance in mid-field. He’s been given a light campaign this time around by his shrewd handler and he runs off the same mark as last year.
Another that looks to have been aimed at this since the autumn is Arkwrisht who has raced just once this year when asked to race over too short a distance. A mark of 137 should get him nicely in at the foot of the weights and he promises to stay this far for Joseph O’Brien, who would be completing what I imagine would be a unique Melbourne Cup and Irish Grand National double in the same season.
Auvergnant is also interesting on what he has achieved over the Cross-Country courses at Cheltenham and Punchestown, as he’s got much closer to rivals than his normal rating suggested he should. Whether he can make the same improvement stepped-up in trip over regulation fences remains to be seen, but he could be well-handicapped on 130 if doing so.
The other four are much bigger prices but, with 33/1 and 50/1 winners in the last few years, this is one race in which shocks are never that much of a shock. Westerner Point loves it here at Fairyhouse and his record is 1/2/2. His win two starts ago over the well-handicapped Drumacoo also suggested he could be ready for this test of stamina.
Two at even bigger-prices that might be worth playing if the bookies go five or even six places are Phil’s Magic and Close Shave. Phil’s Magic caught the eye twice recently when sixth over fences behind Annibale Fly and when sixth over hurdles behind Total Recall, and he might just stay-on late to hit the frame.
Meanwhile, Close Shave would be another winning 7-year-old and, though his stamina for this test must be completely taken on trust, he’s two from two at Fairyhouse so far.
It’s hard to know how the final field will look at this stage, and Outlander’s participation could make a massive difference to so many horses. However, it’s often paid to go with the horse that look set to carry less than 11-0, and I’ll take Oscar Knight, Arkwrisht, Westerner Point, and Close Shave against the field in what is always a competitive race.
Irish Grand National Betting Tips
Each Way @ 21.00 BetVictor, WilliamHill
Each Way @ 26.00 PaddyPower, WilliamHill
Each Way @ 51.00 Coral
Each Way @ 51.00 Winner Sports
*Odds correct when posted at 22:15 GMT on 28th March 2018