Irish Grand National 2021 – Wexford Preview

PAUL NOLAN

Tomorrow the Irish Grand National takes place at Fairyhouse racecourse, Co.Meath. This year there is plenty of Wexford interest in the race, with the current favourite Latest Exhibition trained by Paul Nolan who also saddles Fitzhenry. Meanwhile there are also 5 Co.Wexford jockeys taking part.

We have split up our Grand National preview into 2 sections – Wexford Trained horses, and Wexford Jockeys.

Wexford Trained Horses:

Latest Exhibition – Trained by Paul Nolan and ridden by Bryan Cooper, Latest Exhibition is carrying top weight and likely to go off favourite. The stable star for Paul Nolan won a Grade 1 novice hurdle at Leopardstown over 2 miles 6 furlongs in 2020. Since then he has raced in 3 more grade 1’s, two of them over fences. On each of the 3 occasions he trailed home Monkfish who is unbeaten over fences.

Novice Chasers have a very good record in the Irish Grand National. Monkfish is an exceptional 3 mile chaser, following him home on 3 occasions is very good form, so although he is carrying top weight and rated 153, there is every chance that the handicapper has been lenient enough with Latest Exhibition.

Fitzhenry – Trained by Paul Nolan and ridden by Darragh O’Keeffe. No doubt named after hurling’s greatest ever goalkeeper, Fitzhenry is carrying 10st 8lbs and rated 137. Ran a good race last time out to be 3rd in the Leinster National over 3miles 1 furlong. Has a number of placed efforts in various valuable handicaps over the last couple of years without ever managing to land a really big pot.

Ran a solid race in the 2018 Porterstown over course and distance on good ground. Good ground won’t be any problem to him, and might even bring about a bit of improvement on recent form. Was priced up at 33/1 during the week, is now 25/1 in places, is likely to shorten further, and has a great chance of outrunning those odds with a bit of luck in running. Many bookmakers will be offering 6 places.

Wexford Jockeys:

Court Maid – Trained by Tom Mullins and ridden by Seán O’Keeffe. Won a novice chase back in October before going on to win the Porterstown over course and distance in November, and 2 weeks later finished 3rd in a handicap chase at Cheltenham. 12 pounds higher than his win back in November. It will be a big challenge to overcome that, but definitely a live chance.

Coko Beach – Trained by Denise Foster and ridden by Jordan Gainford. Won a grade 2 novice chase on his last run, prior to that won the Thyestes Chase at Gowran over 3 miles 1 on heavy ground. Has shown himself to be a very strong stayer and solid jumper. Jordan Gainford’s claim takes 7 pounds off his back and therefore looks to be carrying a very nice weight of 11st. Has every chance.

Mortal – Trained by Joseph O’Brien and ridden Corkman by Shane Fitzgerald, who is based with Mick Goff in Clondaw. Despite winning back in August, this season hasn’t been great for Mortal. His last 5 chase starts consist of falling last time out, pulling up in the Thyestes, finishing 4th of 5 in the Clonmel Oil, falling in the Munster National and finishing 8th in the Kerry National. However, his best form has come on Good/Yielding ground, so perhaps the last few days of good weather might play to his advantage. Would be a surprise winner.

Home by the Lee – Trained by Joseph O’Brien and ridden by JJ Slevin. 5 starts this season have yielded 3 wins including a grade 3 and a grade B handicap. Was only 13 lengths 3rd behind Envoi Allen in the grade 1 Drinmore Chase at Fairyhouse in November. Was raised 10lbs for his February win, and now rated 149. Jockey JJ Slevin was victorious in this race by in 2018 on General Principle.

The Big Dog – Trained by Peter Fahey and ridden by Jamie Codd. Yet another novice chaser, his only chase win came just 7 weeks ago on his most recent run so clearly in good form. That race was over 3 miles 4 on soft ground at Punchestown, so staying the distance should be no issue on better ground here. Has decent form on all types of ground but hasn’t won too often. Was ridden by Harley Dunne when 2nd on Point to Point debut at Monksgrange in 2017. Will possibly go off at a single figure price and has every chance.

Brace Yourself – Trained by Noel Meade and ridden by Sean Flanagan. Hasn’t been seen since finishing 2nd behind Court Maid in the Porterstown back in November. Was well fancied that day. This good ground might suit after a light season so far. Another novice who might still have plenty more to come.

Run Wild Fred – Started his racing career with James Doyle in 2018 when winning a Point to Point at Dawstown ridden by Harley Dunne. Now trained by Denise Foster, Run Wild Fred finished 2nd in the Thyestes for Gordon Elliott back in January on heavy ground, but will surely appreciate the better going at Fairyhouse tomorrow given his breeding (by Shantou out of a Talkin Man mare who raced on the dirt throughout his career in the USA).

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