The Irish Grand National doesn’t quite hold the same level of prestige as its English counterpart, but it remains a crucial part of the jump fixtures in Ireland. Since it takes place a week before the Grand National, it provides a great opportunity for trainers and owners to put their charges through their paces ahead of the major event at Aintree.
Fairyhouse still provides a great challenge for horses over the three miles and five furlongs of the Irish National, and there is proven history that it prepares horses for the rigours of the Aintree course. With that in mind, here are three horses that have enjoyed success at Aintree and Fairyhouse. They could give food for thought when you review the Irish Grand National 2023 betting odds for promising contenders.
Rhyme ‘n’ Reason (1985)
Rhyme ‘n’ Reason was an unheralded horse in 1985 when he arrived at the Irish Grand National at the age of just six. However, Graham Bradley in the saddle got the best out of his charge to dominate the rest of the field and claim a famous win.
It took time for Rhyme ‘n’ Reason to progress through the stages. He did not appear at the Grand National until 1988 just weeks after suffering a fall at the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Rhyme ‘n’ Reason was a 10/1 shout for the National but was on point with a fine performance to defeat Durham Edition by four lengths to win the event for trainer David Elsworth and owner Juliet Reed. He was put straight into retirement after his success, so he did not have a chance to defend his title.
The Irish thoroughbred was not a superstar in jumps racing when he made his appearance at the Irish Grand National in 1998. He notched five wins on the circuit before making his bow in the event at Fairyhouse, including two at the racecourse. Bobbyjo was familiar with conditions and delivered an impressive performance to edge out Papillon by half-a-length for jockey Paul Carberry and trainer Thomas Carberry.
Before Bobbyjo’s victory in 1999, the Irish had a 24 year barren period, when 121 horses came to Aintree and they all lost. In fact, from 1976 to 1998 only six Irish horses actually finished in the first three places. How times have now changed since the turn of the millennium. pic.twitter.com/VDCO4uJFAj— Jason Brautigam (@DizzyJB) April 4, 2022
After a disappointing start to his 1998/99 season, Bobbyjo gathered momentum for the Grand National with a win at Down Royal. The nine-year-old had a starting price of 10/1 for the National, so he was considered one of the leading runners for the crown. He was able to come through all 30 jumps unscathed before powering down the stretch to beat out his compatriot Blue Charm by 10 lengths. Ironically, he was beaten in 2000 in his return to the National by Papillon, who finished as the runner-up in the Irish National in 1998.
Numbersixvalverde had been a strong competitor for Martin Brassil for a number of years without hitting the headlines. However, he arrived at Fairyhouse in 2005 as a contender for the crown at odds of 9/1. Ruby Walsh took to the saddle and did not disappoint with a brilliant ride in a tight race as Numbersixvalverde had the pace when it mattered the most to edge out Jack High by three-quarters of a length. Brassil opted for the Punchestown Festival rather than the Grand National where he finished fifth in his Novice Chase.
He endured a middling campaign in the 2005/06 season before he competed at Aintree in the National with odds of 11/1. Niall Madden took the reins, and he and his charge etched themselves in the history of the Grand National by dominating the field, defeating Walsh, Willie Mullins, and the defending champion Hedgehunter by six lengths. Numbersixvalverde was decent on his return, placing sixth at the Grand National on his final race.
The Irish Grand National can be a very good way to look at horses competing in the Grand National either in the same year or the following season. Even in the case of Papillon, they don’t have to win, but making a strong run in one race is usually a good indicator of calibre for the National.
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