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Free Grand National tips for 2024: Tony Keenan’s Irish shortlist



Tony Keenan goes through the key Irish challengers for the Grand National and picks out the horses he reckons will figure prominently.

It is the Grand National, but not as we know it. The field has been reduced from 40 to 34, the start time is earlier than it has been but perhaps most notable of all is that Irish horses now dominate the race.

In the last ten runnings of the race, 39% of the runners have been trained in Ireland but the figure has been gradually rising in that time; where there was an average of 11.2 Irish runners in the first half of that period, that number jumped to 19.8 Irish runners in the second half with there being 21 and 26 in the last two Grand Nationals.

That number is set to jump again this year with only six of the top 34 in the weights, i.e. those sure of a run, trained outside Ireland, so this run through of the Irish challenge for the race is not far removed from a full race preview.

The top-weight Conflated shaped well in the Ryanair over an insufficient trip but has not been at the same level as he was last season, something that isn’t reflected in his mark, now 166 having been a high of 168. Furthermore, his stamina for extreme trips is concern given he has looked a specialist three miler, the Gold Cup distance finding him out last year.

There are no trip concerns with Noble Yeats, the stiffer the test the better and he could do with all the rain around and more. He clearly likes both the National and Mildmay courses but went with little fluency in the race last year, only keeping on late after the ones that beat him had flown and his mark asks a big question. Perhaps blinkers will be considered to sharpen him up.

Coko Beach has had a terrific season, winning the Troytown and PP Hogan, and posting other good efforts around them. His mark has gone up plenty as a result and he lacks the class of some of those around him in the weights, while he has not lasted home in either of his two previous tries in the race.

The extended distance is also a question for Capodanno given he was pulled-up before the second last in 2023, but he had a wide trip then and made numerous mistakes. Nor was he particularly conditioned for the race having only had one previous run in the spring, but things have gone much better this season. Really deep ground would be a worry, however, and his Cotswold form hasn’t worked out, but he is unexposed.

I Am Maximus is one of the few in the field that are officially well-treated, rated 164 in Ireland now but set to race off 159 here. His new mark was achieved under very different conditions to what he will face here in the Bobbyjo, and he has looked ideally suited by Fairyhouse so far. He has his own way of jumping so his backers will know early if he is taking to the task.

The favourite for the abandoned Cheltenham Cross County, Minella Indo, has back class but the races he has won lately, five-runner fields at Tramore and Punchestown, were contrasting tests to what he gets here. He seemed to struggle with the early pace and field size in last year’s Gold Cup and it might be similar here.

Janidil hasn’t fired since his fall at Fairyhouse last Easter and seems an unlikely stayer while Stattler has a bit to prove on stamina too. He won the 2022 National Hunt Chase but that was in a steadily run race and the form has not worked out. He did show a bit behind Allaho at Thurles, but it is hard to know what that horse is anymore.

An absence since the Coral Gold Cup hardly seems an ideal preparation for Mahler Mission but he looks the right type for the race, a generally sound jumper with plenty of stamina that likes left-handed tracks. His yard has struggled for National Hunt winners this season – 6/111 since the start of November – but he did have the excuse of losing shoes in what was an excellent runner-up effort in the fog at Newbury (replay below).

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Delta Work was going fine when unseating at the 21st fence last year, and also ran well when third in the 2022 version of the race, making his effort sooner than ideal on ground faster than he wants. The handicapper has given him a chance with a mark of 157 having been 171 at his best and while his form this season has dipped, there were better signs last time in the Boyne. The more rain, the better.

The handicapper has taken a lofty view of most cross-country chase form and Foxy Jacks looks to have plenty on off 157 on his more conventional efforts for all that he might take to the race while Galvin shaped well in the Boyne last time but has a marked preference for drier ground. He’s one to put on weather watch.

Farouk D’alene has one excellent piece of form from the 2022 Brown Advisory but the handicapper has cut him little slack since and Fury Road is a tricky customer who has not shown form since last season’s Savills which was a weak race. Ain’t That A Shame put it together in the Thyestes but is hard to trust to do so for two starts in a row, while he is a keen sort that seems better over shorter.

A fast-finishing second in the race last year, Vanillier looks feasibly handicapped off four pounds higher now. He seems best in spring, though would prefer decent ground, and for all that the finished with a bit to give last year, it was his less than fluent jumping in the second half of the race that caused him to be badly positioned.

Mr Incredible unseated at the 24th last year and has had just the one run since, a fine second in the Midlands National. He has own ideas about racing, however, and it is hard to know what version of him will turn up while Run Wild Fred has more letters than numbers in his form lately.

Small fields seem to suit Minella Crooner best, his two chase wins coming against six and three rivals, and he has been pulled up on each of his three runs in bigger fields over fences. Adamantly Chosen ran his best race of the season to win at Down Royal on St. Patrick’s Day but that form is far from solid, and he has stamina to prove.

Chemical Energy has been off even longer than Mahler Mission, having not run since the Kerry National, and has nothing to say he is well-in off 148 though some drying whether would help. Another well-in runner is Limerick Lace, up six pounds for her Cheltenham win. The trip in the Mares’ Chase was on the sharp side for her, though whether she wants marathon distances remains to be seen and she can be tricky, something that tends to get found out in races like this. The ground will likely suit, however.

Perhaps the most interesting runner near the bottom of the weights is Meetingofthewaters. He travelled particularly well in the Ultima, before getting outpaced then keeping on in the manner of one that will be suited by further, and that was effectively his first run since Christmas as he unseated early at the DRF. His jumping is assured, his Paddy Power win was both visually impressive and strong form while he gets to race off the same mark as Cheltenham. He’s a big player.

The Goffer also ran in the Ultima but looked as if he wanted to go down rather than up in trip and it is possible the admirable Roi Mage is a little stretched by the trip too. He went well for a long way on decent ground last year, but the more testing ground could find him out. Glengouly ran a couple of fine races in the Tim Duggan and Thyestes but disappointed last time and is an unlikely stayer.

Panda Boy has found it hard to win lately, that likely due to running in strong races and lacking some pace in the finish, but he ran another good race over hurdles last time and there are few more solid place candidates. He gets an 11lbs pull with Meetingofthewaters for the Paddy Power Chase but the tendency to run well without winning is a touch off-putting.

Of the last few, Eklat De Rire has become disappointing while Malina Girl has a chance, travelling well when falling Broadway Boy in December and off a pound lower now. The last Irish horse in the top 40, Desertmore House, was taken out of Fairyhouse on account of the ground, so he could do with some drying weather.

That is the Irish challenge but horse for horse, the British team is strong, Corach Rambler is a deserving favourite and few National winners in memory have breezed to the lead in the way he did last year. Latenightpass and Mac Tottie have both proven themselves well-suited by the fences in the past, while Galia Des Liteaux, Chambard and Kitty’s Light are stamina gluttons that would enjoy a slog.

Of the Irish, however, MEETINGOFTHEWATERS would be top of my list. Delta Work is next in, and his chance would be increased by the ground remaining slow, while the consistent Panda Boy and the back to form Capodanno round out my shortlist of four.

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