The 2019 Grand National at Aintree edges ever closer and this year’s renewal of the world’s most famous steeplechase promises to be hotter than ever.
Here’s how the Grand National works. The British handicapper assesses all the horses that make an entry, then allots them a special rating for the race which is announced in February.
Horses will run off this mark rather than any subsequent adjustments made to their official rating based on performances after the weights come out. That means that it’s possible some have got in at Aintree lightly. With that in mind, here are four Irish horses that are well-in to the 2019 Grand National.
Gordon Elliott is likely to send many of his staying chasers over to Aintree. Jury Duty is something of a curious horse in that he won the American Grand National – which is contested over hurdles and about one-and-three-quarter miles short of the trip of the English equivalent.
Since his victory across the Atlantic at Fair Hills, the eight-year-old has won back over fences following a mid-winter break and that’s put him 6lb well-in. Jury Duty (33/1 for Aintree) gave 10lb to stable companions Mala Beach (66/1) and Don Poli (as big as 80/1 in a place) at Down Royal and won decisively.
Willie Mullins likes to lay one out for a serious title at the Grand National. That has clearly been the play with his Ronnie Bartlett-owned 11-year-old Rathvinden since he won the National Hunt Chase over four miles at the 2018 Cheltenham Festival.
Rathvinden had a busy novice chase campaign last season and was given a lengthy break off the back of his exploits. He returned to action in the Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse and February, continuing his handler’s fine record in that race. After beating Alpha Des Obeaux (40/1) comfortably off level weights there, Rathvinden looks well worth a free Grand National bet at a top-price 12/1 as he’s 8lb well-in.
There’s no doubt that one Irish horse in particular that bookmakers fear most, and that’s Tiger Roll. Last year’s Grand National hero is very hot favourite to retain his title for Elliott and owners Gigginstown House Stud, despite the fact no horse has won the Aintree showpiece in consecutive years since Red Rum (1973 and 1974).
Many have tried to win the English National twice since and failed. Tiger Roll is 8lb well-in after bolting up when making a successful defence of his Cross Country Chase crown at the Cheltenham Festival.
That was his fourth career victory at the prestigious National Hunt meeting, so he clearly goes well in the spring and the British handicapper admits he may have underestimated the wide-margin romp. Tiger Roll is now as short as 7/2 in places for the 2019 Grand National but 4/1 with most bookies.
Of all the Irish horses possibly heading to Aintree, Mullins’ dual Leinster National winner Pairofbrowneyes looks the most well-treated. His Grand National rating is 10lb under his revised mark and a gamble has developed on the 10-year-old as a result.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but he may be chucked in on the British handicapper’s assessment of the previous form. Pairofbrowneyes is now 25/1 with most bookmakers after his five-length victory at Naas after his first Leinster National success came at Gowran Park.