THE Irish Grand National is one of Ireland’s most sacred national hunt races and this Easter weekend, Fairyhouse stages a feast, consisting of much more than chocolate eggs, an event with layers of tradition and resonance beyond the title.
First run in 1870, the Irish Grand National was a race dominated by Tom Dreaper from the 1940s to '60s; he won it on 10 occasions, including with legendary horses such as Arkle and Flyingbolt.
Tom’s son, Jim Dreaper, added his own legacy to the race by training Brown Lad to a record three wins during the 1970s.
Who can forget the brilliant Ann Ferris guiding Bentom Boy to victory in the 1984 renewal?
It would take 27 years before another female jockey would land the prestigious prize when local rider Nina Carberry steered Organisedconfusion to win for her uncle, Arthur Moore. Just four years later Katie Walsh and Sandra Hughes matched that feat with Thunder And Roses.
The Irish Grand National is a legacy in itself and while many onlookers might just consider this race just another staying handicap chase, if you look beneath the surface, this is a race that can define careers and make dreams reality. So who will add their names to the IGN roll of honor in 2021?
The participation of Tiger Roll will determine the complexion of Monday’s race. Two Aintree Grand Nationals and five Cheltenham Festival wins result in high ratings and with a mark of 163 to his name, Tiger Roll is 10lbs higher than the remainder of the field.
Now an 11yo, his connections have indicated that were he to run on Monday, a 7lb claiming conditional rider would be booked, Jordan Gainford the most likely candidate after his display on The Shunter at Cheltenham.
It’s fair to say that the name Tiger Roll will be remembered in similar terms as Red Rum or Arkle — he might not have the class of the latter but his longevity is already legendary.
Tiger Roll is a racing icon and were he to line up in the Irish Grand National with top weight, it would be something reminiscent of when Flyingbolt shouldered 12-07lbs back in 1966.
Tiger Roll is not Flyingbolt, but he’s unique in his own tiger-esque way. Never underestimate him and always respect his talents; his presence on Monday might not be guaranteed, but his legacy already set in stone.
Aside from the main protagonist, there will be 29 other horses line up at 5pm on Monday and I’ve a few names to note for when the time comes.
Paul Nolan has done a brilliant job with Latest Exhibition thus far and I wouldn’t be surprised if his decision to skip Cheltenham pays dividends at Fairyhouse.
A top-level winner as a novice hurdler, Latest Exhibition’s ability has been somewhat overshadowed by the prowess of the mighty Monkfish. Nolan has two options — run in the National and possibly carry top weight (if Tiger Roll isn’t declared) or run in the Grade 1 Underwriting Exchange Novice Chase and meet Asterion Forlonge.
Either way, Latest Exhibition is a horse capable of winning a top-class race over fences and whatever connections decide to do, he will be a strong fancy for many punters.
He jumps, stays, and as a novice competing in a tough handicap, he’s still open to further improvement.
Escaria Ten is another horse who fits into the 'strong staying novice' category, having run a brilliant race behind Galvin and Next Destination in the National Hunt Chase last month.
It’s a quick turn-around from Cheltenham, but this race looks tailor-made for this 7yo who could still be improving.
On Sunday’s card, the Grade 1 Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Novice Hurdle takes centre-stage.
Won by Honeysuckle in 2019, Henry de Bromhead once again has a strong chance this year’s renewal courtesy of Atlantic Fairy.
Like Latest Exhibition, this mare skipped Cheltenham in favour of Fairyhouse and while this is a very deep race, she possesses strong credentials after impressive performances at Limerick and Navan, not to mention that her trainer/jockey combination dominated Cheltenham!