I heard the BHA head of handicapping thinks the form of Shutthefrontdoor’s Irish Grand National win last year was “utter rubbish”. That’s very strong talk from Phil Smith for a race of the Irish Grand National’s stature.
The Fairyhouse contest has provided three Aintree winners in the last 14 years in Bobbyjo (2000) Papillon (2001) & Numbersixvalverde (2006) who either won or were placed there before winning in Liverpool.
Shutthefrontdoor finished sixth under Nina Carberry in the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham before winning at Fairyhouse under Barry Geraghty.
Living Next Door was half a length ahead of him at Cheltenham and went on to win the Paddy Power Chase while Foxrock was six lengths behind Shutthefrontdoor last March and was narrowly beaten in an Irish Hennessy by the horse Smith now thinks AP McCoy should ride at Aintree, Carlingford Lough.
Shutthefrontdoor (who’ll likely have AP in the saddle) has been targeted with a crack at the Grand National in mind and looks to have done as much as he can do to be considered a serious contender.
Of Willie Mullins’ entries, Back in Focus (above) looks to have gotten a workable weight of 10st 13lb. He’s sure to stay and had an encouraging run over hurdles at Naan last weekend after a year out.
Boston Bob looks to have plenty of weight (11st-7lb) while Ballycasey (10st 13lb) disappointed at Ascot and Prince De Beauchene (10st 13lb) didn’t really take to the race last year.
The one horse that caught my eye was Paul Nicholls’ Rolling Aces. He stayed on well for fourth in the Grand Sefton at the track last autumn and was second to Boston Bob in the Grade One Melling Chase last season. At 40/1 he looks a decent each-way price to me.
Wyck Hill goes for back-to-back wins at Newcastle and – despite being 8lbs higher than when winning last year – can go close again. The softer the better for him.
Micheal Hourigan may send over The Job Is Right who was booked for second to Djakadam in the Thyestes Chase when he fell at the last. He’s had plenty of racing recently including fifth on Sunday to Dedigout (Briar Hill fell, see below).
Broadway Buffalo fell at Haydock and had a circuit run while Glenquest ran a blinder in the Welsh Grand National and has a shout. Former winner Portrait King has been busy and has to recapture his best form. Nighel Twiston Davis’s Count Guido Deiro was fourth to Unioniste at Sandown and is lightly raced but may need to have it all his own way up front.
Easter Day fell on his last start at Cheltenham but looks to have been targeted at Kempton on Saturday and is a worthy favourite to my eyes.
I rode him over 3m in hurdle races and think he’s crying out for the trip but stablemate Rocky Creek may find the trip sharp enough around there.
Fox Appeal has good course form and his run behind Balder Succes was franked at the weekend. Emma Lavelle could have a big day if Shotgun Paddy goes well in the Eider Chase. Rolling Aces has an each-way shout in the National no matter how he runs here while Tom George’s Chartreux is lightly-raced and could improve on his first run this term after winning at Sandown and Punchestown at the end of last season.
A few people have asked why I went to Ascot to ride Ballycasey instead of riding Champagne Fever at Gowran Park. Very simple, Ascot was a Grade One race and I was at Sandown on Friday where Uranna won the Mares Listed race so it made sense to stay over.
Blue Heron franked Faugheen’s form in the Grade 2 race when accounting for Irving. Faugheen didn’t take up his entry at Gowran Park and is working away grand at home. I don’t think not having a run in the same calendar year ahead of the Champion Hurdle will be an issue.
Briar Hill took a big leap forward on his previous form when challenging at the last before crumpling on landing at Navan last weekend. He’s getting to where he needs to be to justify a World Hurdle entry.