Tiger roll good value but flyer one to follow
Following dramatic scenes at Fairyhouse yesterday when Road To Respect benefitted from Yorkhill's quirkiness, attention today turns to the BoyleSports Irish Grand National.
Road To Respect himself could have been one of the 30-runners in the race, with the decision to run in the Ryanair Gold Cup yesterday only coming on Friday morning. And had the six-year-old lined up today, it would have seen Gigginstown with exactly half the field in the €500,000 showpiece.
Despite having 14 runners in the race though, Gigginstown only have one horse, Tiger Roll, in the top 10 of the betting, and the seven at biggest prices are all Gigginstown-owned.
Willie Mullins' trainers' championship defence pretty much hinges on a first Irish Grand National triumph and in Haymount, he'd have a lively contender, but Fletchers Flyer is the horse they all have to beat.
A proven stayer of this 3m6f and on decent ground, Fletchers Flyer has been earmarked for this race all season and Harry Fry is one of the leading young trainers across the water.
On two starts this season at Ascot over 2m7f, Fletchers Flyer had run respectable races. However, as proven at last year's Punchestown Festival, the further the better, and running off just a 7lb higher mark than that Punchestown success, can leave him with a big say here if Noel Fehily's mount can enjoy a nice passage through this 30-runner contest.
Others to note are Tiger Roll, who could well run well at a big price, despite apparently being down the Elliott pecking order judging by jockey bookings.
Donagh Meyler is a very talented rider to have on your side and he will steer the Cheltenham Festival winner. But with Bryan Cooper and Elliott's own team of jockeys looking elsewhere, he looks to be not on their radar and could represent some value.
Not quite as talented or as quirky as Yorkhill, he does possess both of those features and should relish the test of jumping, the ground and the trip.
Minella Foru is the choice of Barry Geraghty and if he can return to his form prior to his injury issues, he will warrant respect.
But Fletchers Flyer is the pick to become an 11th English-trained winner of the BoyleSports Irish Grand National.
The destination of the Irish trainers' championship title could become a lot clearer by this afternoon. But for what it's worth, at the start of play today Gordon Elliott is €306,365 ahead of Willie Mullins.
A double at Cork yesterday brought Rachael Blackmore's tally for the season to 31, meaning that her nearest pursuer in the champion conditional title, Donagh Meyler, ca n now only draw level.
One more winner for Blackmore will see her crowned the outright winner, as Meyler can only ride seven more winners with his conditional status.
It really is some achievement for Blackmore, who took the bold but ultimatley very rewarding move to become Ireland's first professional lady rider over jumps. What an inspired decision.
Move with the times
The Irish Grand National has a reserve system different to any other race on the calendar and while the correct card will be printed in all the papers today, surely, with so much interest in the race, news that Double Seven had been scratched yesterday morning could have been released through one of the HRI Twitter accounts or Fairyhouse's account.