THE Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse on Easter Monday caps a jam-packed racing weekend and finding the winner is somewhat more difficult than picking Tiger Roll at Aintree.
Gigginstown House Stud have won three of the last four runnings of this prestigious race and they hold numerous chances once again this year with the mare Shattered Love and top weight Tout Est Permis their main candidates.
At the tender age of six, Tout Est Permis has already five wins to his name and is three from three since moving from Mouse Morris’ yard to join Noel Meade — scoring a handicap at Galway before landing the Troytown Chase at Navan and the Horse & Jockey Hotel Chase at Thurles.
Connections opted to skip the Cheltenham Festival for which he held Ryanair Chase and Gold Cup entries as they felt this race might be his best target.
Like so many in the line-up, this horse is ground reliant and the more rain that arrives the better his credentials. The Irish Grand National is always a minefield, but this horse is on an upward curve.
Shattered Love is a somewhat different prospect. She is a proven Grade 1 performer and while she was outclassed in the Gold Cup, this handicap debut represents a drop in class. Proven raw ability combined with experience at Grade 1 pace makes her a more attractive option than most and like Tout Est Permis, she will appreciate an ease in the ground.
Sunday’s highlight is the Ryanair Gold Cup — won last year by subsequent Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Al Boum Photo.
Many eyes will be drawn to high profile connections who are well represented in this Grade 1 Chase, but Tipperary trainer Pat Doyle may hold the key courtesy of Kaiser Black.
This progressive son of Germany won two summer Nationals last year at Ballinrobe and Roscommon before running a gallant second to La Bague Au Roi in the Grade 1 Flogas Novice Chase at Leoapardstown.
Just to silence the doubters and confirm that run was no fluke, Kaiser Black went on to demolish his rivals in a Grade 3 Novice Chase at Naas last month — demonstrating he deserves another crack at the highest level. He likes soft ground and given he hasn’t had a busy campaign, he might just represent good value in a top-notch event.
Also on Sunday’s Fairyhouse card is the Grade 1 Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Novice Hurdle — a race which Champion Trainer Willie Mullins has farmed since its introduction.
Mullins has won this race no less than four times in the last six years, with stars such as Annie Power (2013) and Laurina (2018).
This weekend his lead protagonists appear to be Cheltenham Festival winner and runner-up Eglantine Du Seuil and Concertista. Separated by just a short-head last month, the pair are relatively inexperienced, but showed they possess plenty of stamina when powering clear of the remainder up the hill at the Festival.
They will be fancied to go close again this weekend but I like a mare that missed Cheltenham due to a minor injury and arrives to Fairyhouse this weekend a fresh proposition.
Henry De Bromhead is enjoying the best season of his training career to date (93 winners) and it may well continue this weekend courtesy of Honeysuckle.
The mount of Rachael Blackmore, this daughter of Sulamani remains unbeaten in four starts (including a point-to-point) and completed her hat-trick over hurdles with a dominant Grade 3 success at this track back in January — scoring easily by six lengths.
She’s a very uncomplicated mare that settles just behind the leaders and while she lacks Grade 1 experience, she is yet to be full pressured on the track. We’ll find out how good she really is this Sunday.
While the graded action might be on the cards in County Meath, our very own Cork Racecourse Mallow host their annual Easter Festival over the next three days which always attracts a great local crowd and generates plenty of buzz — particularly Monday’s card which features a number of “point-to-point” races.
Well supported by handlers across the country, this meeting is the only one of it’s kind on the Irish racing programme and it’s wonderful to see competitive fields entered for what is always an informative days racing.