Timeform's Ben Fearnley takes an early look at the principle runners in the Irish Grand National and has picked out an ante-post bet.
"She is unexposed both over the trip and in handicaps, and remains with plenty of potential as a chaser."
There are doubts about plenty on the current list of Irish Grand National entries, with many having ran less than a fortnight before at the Cheltenham Festival, and plenty of others who will swerve this for a crack at Aintree's Grand National, which takes place just thirteen days later. In some respects this makes our ante-post preview for the race a little simpler, and we can probably rule out the likes of Cause of Causes and Empire of Dirt who are seemingly Aintree-bound (if Cause of Causes gets in to the Grand National), yet are prominent in the early markets for this race.
J.P. McManus won this race in 2014 with Shutthefrontdoor, and it will be interesting to see which of the current entrants make up his squad for this renewal. Gallant Oscar certainly caught the eye in the Leinster National last time at Naas, but missed the Irish National in favour of the Aintree equivalent last season, despite not being guaranteed a run there (missed the cut eventually), and is no sure thing to take his chance this season.
The winner of the Leinster National was Venitien de Mai, and he looks the type to progress again as his stamina is drawn out and may well have more to offer given his profile, though he is up 10 lb in the weights from that Naas win and improvement will be a necessity to see him land the odds, which themselves seem a little short (currently joint-favourite).
Gordon Elliott has plenty of interesting entries at this stage (besides Cause of Causes) including Mala Beach, who is currently vying for favouritism with Venitien de Mai. Mala Beach could well be Elliott's best chance of a first win in this race, and is the pick of his horses near the top of our adjusted ratings which include Definite Ruby (found less than looked likely over three and a half miles last time), Noble Endeavor (fall in the National Hunt Chase last time far from ideal preparation for this) and Bless The Wings (doubtful stayer of this trip outside of cross country races). Mala Beach would probably have won a Grade 2 at Fairyhouse last time but for falling two out, and given his progressive profile and considering this will be just his second handicap start, he commands plenty of respect.
Horses that swerved targets at Cheltenham in favour of this race are naturally of interest, and Bonny Kate could be the best play in the race at this stage. Bonny Kate saw out three and a half miles well at Punchestown on her handicap debut in January, and after the race connections nominated the National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival as a possible target. Instead of Cheltenham, however, Bonny Kate was sent out to win a Grade 2 at Limerick on the weekend before (didn't need to improve), and after the race the Irish National was declared as her new target. She is unexposed both over the trip and in handicaps, and remains with plenty of potential as a chaser. In the hope that she gets in (currently number 46 on the list, but there look to be a large number of potential defections ahead of her) she looks the bet at this stage, at a slightly bigger price than the market principles Mala Beach and Venitien de Mai.
It was interesting to see David Pipe's Broadway Buffalo, who was reportedly being aimed at the Grand National, come out of the Aintree race at the most recent declaration stage, and after acquitting himself well in some top staying contests last season (second in the National Hunt Chase and sixth in the Scottish Grand National) he would be of plenty of interest if taking up this option instead.
Back Bonny Kate in the Irish Grand National at 12/1