1pt win Bonny Kate @8/1, 0.75pts EW Another Hero @12/1, 0.5pt EW Bless The Wings @18/1, 17:00 Fairyhouse

In recent years, the Irish Grand National winner has tended to come from horses with the profile of an improving novice chaser. This was the case with Thunder And Roses last year, and Shutthefrontdoor the year before. There are plenty in this race that could be a similar type of horse, and nobody else looks more appealing than out-and-out staying mare, BONNY KATE.

Noel Meade’s charge has been exceptional this season and this six-year-old already looks battle-hardened for a race of this nature. She demonstrated the requisite stamina qualities in the Irish Grand National trial, when she destroyed the field in heavy conditions.

The re-opposing Baie Des Iles finished 6 lengths behind at Punchestown, and was best of a strung-out field. Bonny Kate then looked fairly comfortable when she won a fortnight ago in a Grd 2 Mares Novice Chase after a bit of a break. She remains lightly raced for the campaign, and her last race may have just sharpened her up for this, which she has clearly been aimed at.

More improvement is likely, as she has not been stretched on her three victories this season including a win at Fairyhouse. She avoids a penalty for her latest success, and races off the same mark of 137. 8/1 may seem short in a handicap of this nature, but she could still be way ahead of her mark, given the relative ease of her victories and is taken to go close again as she goes in search of a four-timer.

ANOTHER HERO is also an exciting looking prospect for Jonjo O’Neill – who has a good record in the Irish Grand National – and his profile is intriguing. This represents just his third start over fences, and is currently unbeaten with two three mile successes on similar ground conditions.

He made a striking debut over fences to win from last to first after a 584 day lay-off, and then followed it up with another comfortable looking performance, keeping up to his work to win by 4 lengths in an average looking race. That was 55 days ago so he will surely be fresh for this marathon trip, and it looks as though he should relish it.

His current record under rules reads: 11 starts; 7 wins; with 3 places. The vast majority of runs coming over hurdles. He remains very unexposed and although Geraghty rides Cause Of Causes for JP McManus. That should probably be interpreted more out of necessity than as a clear steer for the best chance of the owner. Barry probably couldn’t have justified getting off the top weight and two-time Cheltenham Festival winner, even if he had wanted too. Mark Walsh is the beneficiary as he steps-in to take the ride on the ‘second-string’.

The concerns over his chances stem from his relative inexperience, and his slight tendency to jump left (with Fairyhouse being a right-handed track). However, Jonjo could have brought about further improvement in him, and with his last race on soft conditions, he has also proven his versatility on ground worse than the majority of his starts to date. A 5lb rise for his second chase success, and a mark of 136 makes him a decent punting proposition to the likes of  Venetian De Mai or Killer Crow at the business end of the market.

I was tempted by Killer Crow, but with Bryan Cooper avoiding him for Sub Lieutenant (another novice), there may be reservations over his ability to see out the trip, despite him being possibly well-handicapped.

Instead, it might be worthwhile having an each-way saver on the more experienced BLESS THE WINGS, who had Killer Crow 5 lengths behind him over C&D in November, and never seems to run a bad race.

He is officially weighted just 1lb higher than the Gigginstown second-string which is a 10lb pull in Bless The Wings favour from that success, notwithstanding Killer Crow possessing the greater scope to improve from that previous mark.

His third place finish to Any Currency at the Cheltenham festival is decent form as that was a strongly run race with Josie’s Order only just getting up to collar him for second. And, although this is much more competitive, he has generally fared well in staying chases when racing off a similar mark (including a runner-up spot to The Package in the Kim Muir in 2015 off 1lb lower).

He likes to be held up and is fancied to outrun his 18/1 odds with a good chance of staying on in to one of the five places on offer. The booking of Ruby Walsh is clearly a massive bonus for one of Gordon Elliot’s eight runners in the field, and he should be able to pick-up-the-pieces if they go a strong gallop.

1pt Win Bonny Kate @8/1, 17:00 Fairyhouse
0.75pts EW Another Hero @12/1, 17:00 Fairyhouse
0.5pt EW Bless The Wings @18/1, 17:00 Fairyhouse


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