It’s been nine years since the Grand National went the way of an Irish raider, but with entries of this year’s renewal out on Wednesday that wait could well come to an end in 2016.
Eight horses from Ireland have made the places since Silver Birch landed the Aintree spectacular for then-rookie trainer Gordon Elliot in 2007, with even that return showing that the foreign raiders have underperformed.
A total of 28 per cent of the runners in the eight renewals since then have travelled from across the Irish Sea, but in filling 25 per cent of the available places, their performance is more disappointing still.
But one look at the 126 entrants to the four-mile-plus slog this year says that things could be about to change.
Last year’s winner Many Clouds tops the betting for the home team as a 12/1 shot, more than half the price of everything else in the betting, but the strength in depth that the Irish possess this year looks likely to far outweigh the UK’s offering.
In fact, just two of the nine horses next in the betting hail from the Emerald Isle, but both will have outstanding chances if they line up on April 9.
Don Poli is available at 25/1, and could take up his chance at Aintree as a Gold Cup winner if he delivers at Cheltenham beforehand. Do that, and there is no way that he will be as big a price as he is.
Willie Mullins’ charge has his critics with the tough stayer being labled as slow by some, but true or not, his endless stamina reserves will certainly come in handy on Merseyside.
Available at the same price is Henry De Bromhead’s Goonyella, who is already a National winner, albeit a Midlands National winner.
Nevertheless, his best performances have come over the longest trips he has faced, having since finished second in the Scottish Grand National.
Available at 33/1, the Irish have the likes of Cause of Causes, who won the four mile chase at Cheltenham, 2014’s Irish Grand National winner Thunder and Roses and Ucello Conti who was third in the Thyestes Chase having raced very wide throughout.
Arguably the two most interesting raiders from overseas are Double Seven and First Lieutenant.
The latter is another 33/1 chance, and although he is climbing up the weights this season, has looked something like the horse of old lately.
After seemingly going off the boil last season, including when finishing 16th in the National, his three runs this season have been excellent.
He got within seven lengths of Gold Cup third Road to Riches over an inadequate trip at Clonmel before finishing third in the Hennessy Gold Cup and running Don Poli to half-a-length.
The 11-year-old could come into the race off a similar mark as last year, but will be in much better form.
Double Seven was third at Aintree with AP McCoy on board in 2014, but missed the whole of last season through injury. A couple of satisfactory runs over hurdles this winter will have him ready for this, and Martin Brassil’s horse could go well at a much bigger price this time round.
While the UK contingent will be no mugs by any stretch of the imagination, plenty of questions are there to be asked about many of those at relatively short prices.
The defending champ looks solid enough, but is unlikely to be a whole lot shorter in the better come the day.
Holywell has form at Aintree, but is likely to need good-to-soft chance at worst to be at his very best, Shutthefrontdoor looked to empty on the run having travelled best of all turning for home last year, while Just A Par is an inconsistent sort.
There is a long way to go, and luck in-running will undoubtedly play it’s part on the big day at Aintree, but at this stage of the season, it looks another horse could join a list that includes the likes of Silver Birch, Hedgehunter and Numbersixvalverde in landing the spoils for Ireland.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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