As the world’s most famous steeplechase, the Grand National at Aintree seems to attract more and more Irish-trained racehorses with each passing year.
If the first 40 in the weights take up their engagement in this race, then half the field is guaranteed to be made up of raiders from the Emerald Isle. As two of the last three Grand National winners have been Irish, these are the horses you should keep an eye on at Aintree on Saturday, 6 April and their current prices with Paddy Power.
There are two major yards in Ireland’s jumps horse racing scene. County Carlow handler Willie Mullins is sure to aim a few at the English Grand National with full betting available at: https://www.paddypower.com/horse-racing?tab=grand-national.
Horse for the course: Pleasant Company (25/1)
As one of two 11-year-olds among the Mullins contingent targeting the race, Pleasant Company was a gallant runner-up at Aintree 12 months ago. He went down a diminishing head to Tiger Roll and could now meet him off 2lb better terms, so the form could be reversed. Pleasant Company’s experience of these unique Aintree fences is a huge plus.
Sure to get the trip: Rathvinden (12/1)
As winner of the National Hunt Chase over four miles at the 2018 Cheltenham Festival and then the Bobbyjo at Fairyhouse on his first start of this season, Rathvinden has proved his stamina. Mullins has brought him along very much with this race in mind and, as reported on irishtimes.com, bookmakers slashed the 11-year-old’s price following his winning reappearance.
Unexposed sort: Up For Review (25/1)
Despite being a 10-year-old, Up For Review has had only six starts over fences. He’s won two of those, but also ran solid races on the other occasions, including when third to stable companion Invitation Only in the Thyestes Chase at Gowran Park. Like Rathvinden, he lacks Aintree experience but there could be more to come from him.
County Meath handler Elliott is the other big name in Irish National Hunt horse racing and declared his intention to be mob-handed in the 2019 Grand National. Major backers Gigginstown House Stud are sure to have plenty of entries too:
Horse for the course: Tiger Roll (10/1)
A second triumph in the Grand National for Elliott following Silver Birch’s success in 2007, which you can relive on theguardian.com, came 12 months ago courtesy of Tiger Roll. This horse comes alive in the spring and has won big staying races at the last two Cheltenham Festivals as well as tasting Aintree glory. History is against Tiger Roll repeating his heroics this year, but he’s favourite with the bookies and still has time on his side as a nine-year-old.
Sure to get the trip: General Principle (25/1)
Last year’s Irish Grand National winner General Principle does need a few to come out of the Aintree race to get in. There are sure to be defections though, and this 10-year-old is improving for every run since scoring at Fairyhouse last Easter. He is building up to a big run again and the further the better.
Unexposed sort: Dounikos (25/1)
Elliott has highly tried Dounikos at staying trips and, while he didn’t complete any of his spring targets last season, he looks to have come on a lot this year. Now an eight-year-old, his victory in Ireland’s official Grand National Trial at Punchestown last time out looks to have punched his ticket to Aintree. There’s definitely more to come from him after landing three of the six chases he’s finished.
Best of rest
Smaller stables are also aiming horses at the 2019 Grand National. Here are a couple from different trainers that have Aintree claims:
Sure to get the trip: Anibale Fly (16/1)
Tony Martin saddled Anibale Fly to fourth place in the Grand National last year off the back of a huge run when third in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. That is very impressive form and he has since tenderly handled the JP McManus owned nine-year-old for another go at the Aintree showpiece. Anibale Fly will have to carry a welter burden, possibly even top weight this time but looks capable of doing so.
Unexposed sort: Mall Dini (20/1)
Pat Kelly is another shrewd Irish trainer and has been very unlucky not to win a chase with Mall Dini. While it may seem unlikely a maiden over fences can go on to win the Grand National, this handler is very good at preparing horses in what seem like unconventional ways to win big races. Don’t discount Mall Dini if he lines up at Aintree.