Next weeks John Smith’s Grand National may include a host of fancied challengers from across the irish sea but their own marathon, run at Fairyhouse on Monday, has attracted a poor British enrty.
A maximum field of 30 has been declared, but only the Venetia Williams trained pair of Flintoff and Officier de Reserve, together with Bob Buckler’s Double Dizzy will represent Britain in the 250,000 euro contest.
Buckler, successful with Niche Market in last year’s event, will be less confident of a follow up, as his charge is a general 40/1 shot.
Flintoff, runner-up in last season’s Midlands Grand National, is a similar price and the best chance of a British victory may rest with the ex Paul Nicholls gelding Officier de Reserve, favourite for the 2008 William Hill Troytown Chase when carried out.
The mount of Aidan Coleman, is a top price 28/1 with Coral, and is set to carry 10s 6lb.
The home contingent is headed in the betting by the Tony Martin trained Saddlers Storm, winner of his last three races and attractively weighted on 10s 1lb. Paddy Power are a stand out 13/2.
Although the track has taken a severe battering recently from heavy rain, racecourse manager Caroline Grey described the surface as " Heavy, but perfectly raceable."
With such a poor British turnout for the Irish race the question must be asked: Are there too many long distance chases in too short a time scale?
The Irish Grand National, John Smith’s Grand National, Coral Scottish Grand National and Bet365 Gold Cup all take place within a period of 20 days.