O'Brien has a strong hand, but bets hard to find in Juvenile race
The Grade 2 Juvenile at 14:40 isn't the easiest race from a betting point of view. The second and third from the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham go head-to-head again with Coeur Sublime and Gardens Of Babylon. Preference is for the latter who stayed on well at Prestbury Park despite a couple of mistakes and he does possess good ground form. But the market hasn't exactly missed either of them with the pair at 13/8 and 7/4 on the Sportsbook.
Trainer Joseph O'Brien is such a good trainer of juvenile hurdlers, that you would imagine Filon D'Oudairies should improve from his first Irish run at Leopardstown in a Grade 2. He was a little keen in the race (which is often the case with the French newcomers), but he showed up well-enough in the hood. The headgear is retained, but I am not sure I can see him winning.
The same comments apply to O'Brien's Star Max. He done the column a favour when winning at an advised 9.08/1 last time and battled hard, but might not have the class. Likewise the Willie Mullins' trained French Made, although she does look like a horse who has a fair bit of stamina.
Fred fits the bill at double figures
Away from the graded action on a tremendous card, the 15:15 handicap hurdle over 2m6f has 16 runners (at the time of writing), and a couple caught my eye from an each-way angle on the Sportsbook.
Fred The Foot looks a stayer and has form at 3m. He also has a liking for good and quick ground. If it drys out, all the better for him. He rates a fair bet at 10/1.
He returned to the track recently following a 176-day absence, and ran well over 2m - a trip way too short to do himself justice. He battled and showed his stamina to win over 3m at Clonmel and there could be a little more to give from his mark. For a Scorpion, he seems to put everything into a finish.
The 14/1 Sportsbook price on Moratorium is also one to consider as he seemed to travel quite well to win at Thurles over 2m4f, although he was well beaten in a competitive handicap last time in which Mormon finished as runner-up. Moratorium travelled better than a 129-horse, but I wonder if his best trip will be at 2m4f?
Two for Elliott and one for Mullins for Irish National
This year's Irish Grand National looks a red-hot race and an absolute treat of a betting heat for Easter Monday, and if you are playing on the Sportsbook there is the Extra Place Special.
One of my ante-post fancies has made the race, so we'll jump straight in with no messing around here and nominate Shattered Love as the main bet at around the 22.021/1 mark. We'll play Win and Place.
She shaped a bit better than the bare result in the Gold Cup at Cheltenham and showed up well for a long way with how she travelled in that race. That was her first run since wind surgery, which could have been a contributing factor, as I have long held the opinion she had plenty of stamina. She certainly looked a strong stayer when she finished second at this meeting last year behind Al Boum Photo - a race she was matched in-play at 1.071/14.
From a mark of 154 she has to come into the reckoning considering the horses she has beaten in the past and raced against. The ground is a slight worry, but we'll have to take it on the chin. Her Grade 1 form is too classy to ignore, and remember, she bolted up in the JLT last term and wasn't exactly stopping there.
I'm really looking forward to seeing her over this sort of trip.
Jury Duty is another on the list at 16.015/1, and he too brings to the table some top form as a novice. He lasted until the 18th in the Grand National at Aintree, so we have no idea if he would have had a say in the finish, but he was going well enough at the point of exit. He was also hampered at the first.
His novice form entitles him to be in the mix from his mark of 156, and he does have bits and pieces of form on drying ground - including finishing third in the 2017 Pertemps from a mark in the mid 140s. I highlighted him as one of my National bets before Liverpool and mentioned his efforts in the Galway Plate and Kerry National - both staying-on efforts. He's still in that notebook.
I cannot leave out an old friend considering the 42.041/1 on offer for Willie Mullins' Isleofhopendreams. He finished second in the race last year under a positive ride and went agonisingly close when matched in-running at 1.558/15. He showed on that occasion that these extreme distances suit, and he is usually very strong in the finish.
He hadn't fired in a couple of runs this season prior to his second in the Leinster National last time at big odds. He's not a typical 12yo considering how lightly
raced he has been in his career, and we can get around 5.04/1 with him in the 6 Places market.
*Click here to read the exclusive thoughts of Gordon Elliott on his Irish Grand National chances