By Racinguk.com staff
The Fairyhouse showpiece could go a long way to deciding who will be crowned this season’s champion National Hunt trainer in Ireland, with a total prize fund of €500,000 up for grabs.
Elliott, who already holds a significant lead over Willie Mullins, is throwing everything at the Easter Monday feature in an effort to break the Closutton maestro’s stranglehold.
Folsom Blue has found a new lease of life this year after being bought for £21,000 by a syndicate which includes At The Races presenter Gary O’Brien, winning twice from four starts, including the Grand National Trial at Punchestown in February.
O’Brien said: “He’s been brilliant for us this season and it would be great if he could get into the shake-up – everyone’s very excited.
“It’s a plus that he’s run well in it a couple of times already, when Conor (O’Dwyer) and Mouse (Morris) had him, and the ground has come right.
“We were lucky to get Robbie (Power). If he jumps as well as he did at Punchestown and gets a good run round, he shouldn’t be too far away.”
Folsom Blue is among Elliott’s team of 13 for the Irish National (PA)
Both Elliott and Mullins are bidding to claim the Fairyhouse showpiece for the first time.
Mullins has a small team compared to his major rival with just four representatives, but both Bobbyjo Chase winner Bellshill and Pairofbrowneyes, who made a successful debut for the yard in the Leinster National at Gowran Park, are towards the head of the market.
Patrick Mullins, assistant to his father, said: “Bellshill was good in the Bobbyjo and we’ve been happy with him since.
“It’s not going to be easy for him with that weight (11st 5lb), but he is a Grade One winner and is entitled to carry it.
“We wouldn’t be surprised if he’s better than his mark and obviously there is huge prize-money on offer.
“Pairofbrowneyes was very impressive on his first run for us in the Leinster National. We hadn’t had him long and it was a bit of a surprise to see him win the way he did.
“We’re expecting him to improve again, he’s got a proper racing weight (10st 7lb) and he has the breeding to stay the trip. I’m looking forward to seeing him run.”
Bellshill is one of four Mullins runners in the Fairyhouse showpiece (PA)
Mullins also runs the novice Kemboy, fourth in the JLT at Cheltenham, and Isleofhopendreams, second to Folsom Blue in the Trial.
“Novices can run well in races like this and with the prize-money on offer, Willie thought it was worth letting Kemboy take his chance,” said Mullins jnr.
“He ran well in Cheltenham and he’s won over fences at the track, which is a big plus.
“His inexperience is obviously a drawback, but he has a nice racing weight (10st 6lb) and has plenty going for him.
“The trip is a big unknown, but that will be the case for a lot of horses as there aren’t many races over three miles and five furlongs.
“Isleofhopendreams ran a cracker in the Grand National Trial in Punchestown and I think going right-handed is a big plus for him.
“He stays well and is at the right end of the weights, so he must have an each-way chance too.”
Mullins believes his father faces a tough task to successfully defend his trainers’ title, adding: “This race could have a big impact and Gordon has plenty of runners in it.
Meade is hoping Moulin A Vent’s jumping holds up (PA)
“I’d say we’re up against, but we’ll see what happens.”
Noel Meade runs two in Moulin A Vent and Snow Falcon.
“This has been the plan for Moulin A Vent for some time. We’ve always thought a lot of this horse and on occasions he has shown quite a lot,” said Meade.
“Unfortunately he has an Achilles heel and that has been his jumping. If he can put in a full round of jumping, then he’s a useful horse. The trip shouldn’t be a problem.
“Snow Falcon was unfortunate as he went to Cheltenham but banged himself in the box the day before he was supposed to run, so he couldn’t run.
“He’ll be going there fresh. The actual bang might be more of a problem as he missed a couple of days, but he was very fit going and he’s not a horse that takes an awful lot of work, so hopefully he’ll be OK.”
Ross O’Sullivan runs Call It Magic, a winner of three of his nine races over fences.
“When he won two chases early on in the autumn, Ruby (Walsh) won both on him, we kind of had it in the back of our heads that we would go this road,” he said.
“Since then we’ve been happy., He had a run over hurdles at Thurles and his latest run was on very heavy ground, when he finished third under Andrew Lynch at Fairyhouse, he ran a nice race.
“The only reservation we have is we would love the ground to dry out a bit more, it’s unusual coming into April that it’s this soft, hopefully it can dry.”