The Irish Grand National finishes off the usual spring series of marathon-staying steeplechases for another year. Fairyhouse is the host on Easter Monday and we have two selections for the Irish showpiece.
As a general rule, it has paid to stick with novice or second-season chasers in recent years and with rare fast-ground on the cards it could be folly to ignore those runners weighted at the top-of-the-handicap despite only Our Duke’s success offering a winner that carried more than 10st 13lbs
Any Second Now is currently favourite having finally put it altogether when winning the Kim Muir at the Cheltenham Festival. There’s no doubt Any Second Now is talented, although I don’t think the Kim Muir was a strong race. He carries 7lbs more now, in a deeper race, and is not certain to see out the extra three furlongs.
One who is also yet to tackle this distance and looks tailor made for this race is SNUGSBOROUGH BENNY, from the the understated yard of Liam Cusack. Cusack is a solid steeplechase trainer and is 6/17 this season with his chasers for a level stakes profit.
Snugsborough Benny is a second-season chaser and has got better and better with each start over the larger obstacles, and looks to have been shrewdly trained by his yard. After three runs in the winter of 2017 without success, he returned during spring in 2018 to claim two victories from four starts including a commanding performance at the Galway Festival, while running well in his two defeats and crying out for a trip.
Snugsborough Benny reappeared this season with a pipe-opener over hurdles in December before the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown when he was just getting into things on the final circuit before getting bumped (after jumping right) at a fence and unseating Denis O’Regan.
The fences come up thick and fast during the Irish National and it was encouraging to see Snugsborough Benny nearly foot-perfect with his jumping when well-fancied at the track on his last start over just under three miles. He won easily and hugely impressively with a hands-and-heels ride over a couple of decent yardsticks in Call It Magic and Measureofmydreams.
I don’t think that run was a fluke and this race has long been the target for Snugsborough Benny who should relish the step up to 3m 5f, and the big field, as he has proved during the Galway Festival last year. At a best price of 14/1 he is a lively contender to take on the market principles from the Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliot yards, who are typically dominant, with no fewer than 19 runners between them.
Looking at the two major yards, a case can be made for Jury Duty if none the worse for his Aintree experience though Dounikos will find this tougher carrying more weight.
For Willie Mullins, Pairofbrowneyes will be well-fancied. But the pick of his crop looks to be Burrows Saint and C’EST JERSEY. The latter just shades the verdict having finished ahead of his stablemate on his previous start off level-weights by over a length.
C’est Jersey is now in receipt of 4lbs from Burrows Saint and more than double the price at 20/1 and with this race tending to throw up a few big price winners, he looks a lively each-way value play. The selection remains unexposed over fences and as a novice this is just his fifth chase start and his first in a handicap, where an opening mark of 140 could prove lenient.
Still a maiden over fences, C’est Jersey has bumped into a few along the way including Kemboy last season on his opening start and most recently behind the Arkle winner, Duc Des Genievres and Close Brothers Novice Chase runner-up, Tower Bridge.
Katie O’Farrell claims 5lbs helping C’est Jersey to officially carry a featherweight of 9st 13lbs on his back. He will be fresher than most for this having only had two starts this term, both of which were pretty encouraging. This time of year has seen him put up his best two previous career runs with a win and a second-placed performance at Punchestown on quick ground in 2017 and 2018 respectively
2019 Irish Grand National Tips: 1pt each-way Snugsborough Benny @14/1, 1pt each-way C’est Jersey @20/1, 17:00 Fairyhouse, Monday (1,2,3,4,5,6 places, 1/5 odds with various bookmakers)Leave a comment