Only four British entries for Irish National as Elliott and Mullins dominate
They were not wowed by the prize-money on offer at the Dublin Racing Festival this month and now British trainers are ignoring Ireland's richest jumps race as well with just four of the 97 entries for the BoyleSports Irish Grand National based in Britain and two of those are trained by the same man.
With €500,000 worth of prize-money up for grabs, Gordon Elliott and Willie Mullins are responsible for 48 of the 97 entries for the Easter Monday marathon at Fairyhouse. Neither have won the race before.
Elliott has 30 inmates initially declared but the sponsors believe that Squouateur is his best chance as they have made the JP McManus-owned grey the 10-1 joint-favourite along with the Pat Kelly-trained Mall Dini.
"It's slightly disappointing but it just screams how competitive Irish racing is right now," admitted Fairyhouse racecourse manager Peter Roe.
"The fact that our race is before the Grand National at Aintree is a disadvantage as sometimes you could pick up horses who have fallen early at Aintree or things might not have gone to plan there.
"Last year there were 24 entries from Britain but only one of those followed through and ran in the race. The entries we've got from Britain are very interesting and are trained by some really promising young trainers. American would be very interesting if he were to run."
Despite the lack of British interest, Roe expressed his delight at the quality of the entries and believes the 2018 renewal could be the best edition yet.
"Overall the entries are extremely high on quality. There's great strength in depth and, certainly during my time as manager at Fairyhouse, I can't remember such quality entries.
"There's last year's winner Our Duke, the Irish Gold Cup winner Edwulf and a whole host of quality novices too. It should be a cracker," Roe said.
Our Duke, last year's facile 14-length winner, tops the weights with 11st 10lb and Jessica Harrington is not ruling out a repeat attempt despite being a leading fancy for the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup next month.
Harrington said: "He's come out of Saturday's race at Gowran Park in great shape and, while Cheltenham is the immediate target, the BoyleSports Irish Grand National is very much on the radar.
"His owners, the Coopers, had the day of their lives at Fairyhouse on Easter Monday last year and will never forget the rapturous reception he received."
Bachasson (11st 3lb) and Total Recall (11st), who could both be on course for a crack at the Cheltenham Gold Cup, look to be Mullins' two leading contenders, although the former Sandra Hughes-trained Acapella Bourgeois (10st 8lb) is another to catch the eye despite a few below-par effort recently.
Irish Grand National
BoyleSports 10 Mall Dini, Squouateur, 12 Folsom Blue, 14 Monbeg Notorious, 16 Dounikos, Acapella Bourgeois, The Storyteller, Any Second Now, Kemboy, Al Boum Photo, Total Recall, Our Duke, Invitation Only, 20 bar.
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