The Irish Grand National takes place at Fairyhouse Racecourse on Monday 28th March 2016. There are currently 90 entries for the 3m5f marathon but except that number to get whittled down to around 28 runners on the day.
It should come as no surprise to anybody that Willie Mullins has a massive hand in this year's entries, with 17 individual horses entered and his charge, Valseur Lido currently leads the weights on 11-10, a full 7lbs ahead of his nearest rival, First lieutenant who has been given 11-03 for the event.
Many of Mullins horses also have entries into this week's Cheltenham Festival as well as the upcoming Aintree Grand National including On His Own, Sir Des Champs, Ballycasey and Valseur Lido but he could be really going for the Irish national as, surprisingly, he has never won it!
Following a fantastic win from Venitien De Mai in the Leinster National Handicap Chase on March 6th, his odds shortened to as little as 10/1 ante-post and that now puts him in joint-favourite position along with Bonny Kate.
Trained by Noel Meade, Bonny Kate is on terrific form with three back-to-back wins, most recently at Limerick on March 13th. She set out in front, jumped impeccably and is a natural over fences.
Her jockey Sean Flanagan said: “She is very, very good to jump, runs the whole way to the line and loves that heavy ground.
“She is very versatile and actually has plenty of speed, but is also gutsy and hardy and stays galloping.
“The Irish National is in mind for her and everything seems to be going the right way for her and whatever she gets for today, she'll have a nice weight there.”
She currently has 9-13 but depending on who eventually leads the weights, if Valseur Lido is withdrawn, that could go up but around 7lbs giving her 10-06 to run off, a weight she is more than capable of running and winning with.
There are plenty of potential Irish Grand National runners with dual entries into the Aintree National including Cause Of Causes, Gilgamboa, Morning Assembly, Gallant oscar and Pendra, to name a few.
The significant differences between the two races are the distance, the Irish National being shorter, the number of runners which is significantly less at Fairyhouse and the prize money which is only €152K for the winner in Ireland versus £560K for the winner at Aintree.
Last year's winner, Thunder and Roses, has another entry this year but relatively poor seasonal form means he's around 20/1 to win the race for second time. Also in the fram are the Mouse Morris-trained Rule The World and Jim Dreaper’s Sizing Coal who finished second and third in 2015.
Also on the hun for his first win in the Irish National is trainer Gordon Elliott who has entered a team of 12 including Mala Beach, Roi Du Mee, Cause Of Causes and Lord Scoundrel.
Peter Roe, general manager of Fairyhouse Racecourse, said: “We are delighted with the strength and depth of the entries for the BoyleSports Irish Grand National.
“There is a huge entry of 90 horses for the race and it is very encouraging that 11 of them have come from Britain and I’m hopeful that this year’s renewal will produce another fairytale result.”
The first forfeit stage of the proceedings is March 22nd, the same as the Aintree Grand National, which will no doubt give trainers and connections time to assess their charges following the end of the Cheltenham Festival.
Picture by: Niall Carson / PA Archive/Press Association Images