Mahon chases big-race hat-trick with Smokey Joe Joe
thetote.com Connacht National Handicap Chase | 3m1f | 5yo+ | ATR
Stephen Mahon has made the Connacht National his own of late thanks to Aranhill Chief, who has won it for the last two years at odds of 16-1 and 14-1.
Aranhill Chief is not in the field to try to complete the hat-trick but his trainer could achieve the feat if Smokey Joe Joe can spring another surprise.
Form figures of 5P7 would not get you too excited but the 11-year-old is a six-time winner and warmed up for this test with an encouraging effort over hurdles at Cork.
Gordon Elliott has won more Nationals than any other trainer in Ireland or Britain in the last few years and relies on Mountain King, who has not been seen in action on home soil since running at Navan in November.
However, his most recent trips to Wetherby and Ayr have not been overly encouraging.
The likely favourite is the Enda Bolger-trained Auvergnat, who has already won a National in 2017. He was an impressive winner of the Killarney version last month off a mark of 118 and has a 9lb higher mark to contend with on this occasion.
This has been a bookies' benefit in the last six years with no favourite obliging. The average-priced winner in that time has been just over 10-1.
What they say
Enda Bolger, trainer of Auvergnat
I know he has gone up 9lb for his win at Killarney but he has got that hike for a reason and he was good there. He came out of the run in great form and he certainly won't mind the drop of rain that has fallen over the last few days. He will love conditions.
Stephen Mahon, trainer of Smokey Joe Joe
It's unfortunate that we couldn't run Aranhill Chief and it's breaking my heart that the ground is not right for him. It just wouldn't have been fair to run him, but we've trained Smokey Joe Joe for this and he seems in great nick. He'll handle the ground and he finished upsides Aranhill Chief in a piece of work today, so I'm very happy with him.
Phillip Dempsey, trainer of Whatareudoingtome
He can cut one low and he paid the price at Killarney. He's always been prone to making an odd mistake, for all that he's generally a good jumper. He seems in good form and I'm expecting a good run from him.
Gareth Power, trainer of Curragh Golan
He won on soft to heavy at Listowel last year so hopefully he'll handle conditions. The trip is not a problem and only carrying 10st 5lb should help too. Paul [Townend] gets on very well with him.