GBI RACING

General Principle leads Elliott battalion in Irish National mix

General Principle (second left) came out on top in a blanket finish last year

Gordon Elliott is responsible for 34 of the 110 entries for this year’s BoyleSports Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse.

Among the powerhouse stable’s huge prospective army for the Easter Monday highlight on April 22 is last season’s hero General Principle and top-weight The Storyteller.

Delta Work, Dounikos, high-class mare Shattered Love and the hugely popular Tiger Roll have all been given the option – although the latter appears set to defend his crown in the Randox Health Grand National at Aintree on April 6.

Gordon Elliott won his first Irish National last year
Gordon Elliott won his first Irish National last year (PA Wire)

Speaking at an Irish Grand National weights launch at his Cullentra base on Tuesday morning, Elliott said: “It was great to win it last year with my family there. I had been second the two previous years.

“We’ll hopefully have maybe 10 runners this year, and we’ll see what way we split them up between there and Aintree.

“We have two and a half weeks between the two races  – so we’ll run plenty in both races, and we could have a few that run in both.”

Running through some of his potential Fairyhouse runners, the trainer added: “A horse fell in front of General Principle at Cheltenham (in the Ultima Handicap Chase) last week and stopped him. Jack wisely pulled him up.

“He’ll go to Aintree first, and there is every chance he’ll come back for the Irish National as well.

“There is every possibility that Shattered Love will run in it (Irish National), and she came out of the Gold Cup well.

“Jury Duty will run in the English National, and there is every chance he’ll come back for the Irish National then.

“Folsom Blue is in both and will go for one or the other, and Dounikos ticks a lot of boxes. He’s a horse that likes a bit better ground, and I’ll go wherever he gets the ground.”

Isleofhopendreams (left) narrowly lost out last year
Isleofhopendreams (left) narrowly lost out last year (PA Wire)

Willie Mullins has a team of 15 possibles – including Rathvinden, Killultagh Vic, Pairofbrowneyes and Isleofhopendreams, who was second last year.

Tout Est Permis is an interesting entry for Noel Meade – with Forever Gold, third last season, set to carry the hopes of Edward Cawley.

It is 19 years since Ted Walsh won with Commanche Court, and he could run his Cheltenham Festival winner Any Second Now.

Discorama, second in the four-miler at Cheltenham for Paul Nolan, is another with the option after his big effort.

Ireland’s senior National Hunt handicapper Sandy Shaw said: “It’s a very, very high-quality race this year – even compared to last year’s.

“This year you have 92 horses in the handicap, and you had 55 last year. It just shows the improvement even between last year and this year.

“It’s the highest-class handicap I’ve had over the last number of years.”

There are 19 British-trained entries – with Blaklion, Vintage Clouds, Big River and Ramses De Teillee among the pick of them.

Shaw added: “Last year there was only four English entries, and this year there is 19.

“It would be great to see more English runners in the race. I think we’ve treated the English horses pretty fairly.”

Blaklion is one of 19 British entries in this year's Irish Grand National
Blaklion is one of 19 British entries in this year’s Irish Grand National (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Peter Roe, general manager at Fairyhouse, said: “Once again we are delighted with the strength and depth of entries for this year’s BoyleSports Irish Grand National.

“There are numerous Grade One winners, Cheltenham Festival winners and plenty of exciting novices among the entries. We are particularly delighted with the strong overseas entry up from four last year to 19 this year.

“I know the pleasure which Gordon Elliott felt when scoring his first win in the race last year was one he will always treasure, and he will once again field a strong team in a bid to retain the trophy.”

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