Jumps Season - At The Races

BoyleSports Irish Grand National

    Fairyhouse, Monday 2nd April 2018.
  • Stats Guides

Last Year's Winner: Our Duke

Our Duke
Jockey:
Robbie Power
Trainer:
Jessica Harrington
Age:
7
Weight:
11st 4lb
Starting Price:
9/2
Season Form Figures:
112
Previous Best:
1st - Neville Hotels Novice Chase (Grade 1), Leopardstown (December 2016)

Ireland’s most prestigious handicap chase used to be a punter’s race up until 2006 as only one winner in the previous 20 years had started any bigger than 14/1 (17 of which started in the first six in the betting) but winners have been mighty hard to find in the last 11 years with eight starting at no shorter than 20/1 so it was a welcome sight for many punters when the novice, Our Duke, obliged as the 9/2 favourite last season becoming the second outright favourite to win since Omerta in 1991.

The previous winning favourite was also a novice, Shutthefrontdoor, who had contested the National Hunt Chase over 4m at the Cheltenham Festival on his last start, which has been the race that has had most impact of late featuring four of the last 11 winners. Three of the last 11 winners finished unplaced in the previous year’s Irish Grand National.

As far as age is concerned, since Flashing Steel won 23 years ago, no winner had been aged older than nine until up until Lion Na Bearnai’s surprise 33/1 success six seasons ago as a ten-year-old novice which was then immediately followed by another shock success for a ten-year-old when Liberty Counsel won at 50/1. Liberty Counsel was also putting an end to the run of eight straight victories for first or second-season chasers.

nine of the last 21 winners carried no more than 10st 1lb so do not be afraid of supporting horses running from outside the handicap like four of the last 13 winners.

Returning to Flashing Steel, since he won under 12st back in 1995, horses carrying over 11st have struggled with only Bobbyjo coming out on top until Our Duke led home a 1-2-3-4 for contenders carrying 11st+ last season. Up until last season, only three horses carrying over 11st had even hit the frame in the last decade (they have been heavily outnumbered in fairness with approximately 15% representation) and nine of the last 21 winners carried no more than 10st 1lb so do not be afraid of supporting horses running from outside the handicap like four of the last 13 winners.

In victory 12 seasons ago, Numbersixvalverde was completing the Thyestes-Irish National double and was one of four horses in the last 19 years to have run in that competitive Gowran Park handicap. Just shading the Thyestes as a guide, however, is the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown's Christmas Meeting as five of the last 20 winners contested that prize. The 2006 Irish National winner, Point Barrow, ran in both races.

Also respect previous course winners. They don't race too often at Fairyhouse so course-winning form carries some significance. Flashing Steel was a four-time course winner, the 2003 hero, Timbera, had won three times at the track before whilst the winners in 1998 and 2001, Bobbyjo and David's Lad, had won twice over the same turf, Point Barrow had also previously won at Fairyhouse as had Bluesea Cracker who had won on her only previous chase run at the course and Thunder And Roses won a novice chase at Fairyhouse three months earlier.

Gigginstown House Stud were represented by no less than 13 runners last season as they went in hunt of a third winner on the spin following Rogue Angel in 2016 and Thunder And Roses who led home a 1-2-4 for them in 2015. It wasn’t to be this time as Thunder And Roses fared best finishing fourth.

The Brits had never won the Irish Grand National until Rhyme 'N' Reason took the race as a novice in 1985 for David Murray-Smith. Since then Desert Orchid, Omerta, Mudahim (all 11-year-olds), Granit d'Estruval, Butler’s Cabin, Niche Market and Shutthefrontdoor have come out on top for the top for the raiding party so it's been a pretty good return. Four of Jonjo O’Neill’s last eight runners have either won or placed.

One Irish trainer to keep on your side is Arthur Moore. Successful in 1996 with Feathered Gale and five years ago with Organisedconfusion, he has also gone close on three more occasions supplying the runner-up. No one will ever surpass Tom Dreaper however who won this handicap on ten occasions including for seven consecutive years between 1960-1966 which included successes for Arkle and Flyingbolt. Willie Mullins has a terrible record however with just two of his 29 career runners finishing placed.

At a glance summary

Positives
First or second-season chasers
Contested the National Hunt Chase
Previous course-winning form
Owned by Gigginstown House Stud
Horses trained in Britain (notably by Jonjo O’Neill)
Trained by Arthur Moore
Negatives
Carrying over 11st
Aged 11+ (unless trained in Britain)
Trained by Willie Mullins

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