Insatiable veteran Raz De Maree on Sunday bids to win the Cork Grand National for an incredible third time. Despite his grand age of 13, we don't advise betting against him.
Trainer Gordon Elliott usually mounts a strong challenge in these early staying handicap chases and is responsible for favourite Rogue Angel (6/1 Paddy Power).
The 2016 Irish Grand National winner won his first race since that career-defining victory when landing the Midland's National at Kilbeggan this July, and ran well to be third in the Kerry National at Listowel (3m, soft) in September.
A repeat of that performance should put the 10-year-old on the premises, though it’s worth noting he ran slightly below that level at Limerick last time. In Poormans Hill (9/1 Paddy Power) and Out Sam (10/1 Paddy Power), Elliott saddles two further contenders with long-distance form, with the pair having met on soft ground in Downpatrick’s Ulster National in March.
Poormans Hill looked a highly progressive horse last season and his victory in that Downpatrick chase marked the highlight of a fruitful campaign. Saying that, there is a chance that Out Sam could reverse that form, given he was hampered when in front after the last having travelled very well into the race. In a match race between them, he might be the best bet.
There’s no set age profile for winners of the Cork Grand National, a 3m4f slog over fences. Raz De Maree and Vics Canvas both won aged 11, but Tulsa Jack (2015) and Our Monty (2009) won aged six.
Champion trainer Willie Mullins saddled Our Monty and has another a seven-year-old high up in the Cork Grand National betting this year, with Galway beginners chase winner Minella Beau only 8/1 second favourite with race sponsors Paddy Power.
After his win over 2m6f, Minella Beau has disappointed in a novice chase at Listowel over 2m4f, though he fared better when third in a small field on his return to Galway last month.
The son of King’s Theatre’s breeding offers plenty of hope he will stay this distance, given his dam is a half-sister to My Will, a winner over 3m3f and runner-up in the 2009 Grand National. and to 3m2f winner Unioniste. Is he the best bet though?
At 13 Raz De Maree (14/1 Paddy Power) is well into the veteran stage of his career, but as he proved when winning the Welsh National on heavy ground in January, there’s plenty of racing still to be done, and his love of heavy ground should see him go close on Sunday.
Gavin Cromwell’s charge first took this race as a seven-year-old back in 2012, when trained by the late Dessie Hughes. That, and his 2016 win, were achieved off lower handicap marks than he has now, but he clearly has a great affinity for the course.
The shorter trip and good ground that he encountered at Limerick last time out made the Munster National too much of a speed test, however, that outing was his first of the season and should have put him spot on for another crack at a race he loves.
The top-weight has won the Cork Grand National carrying 11st 3lb and 10st 11lb, priced at 11/2 and 14/1 - and he was 16/1 when he won at Chepstow in January. So have no concerns about his place in the betting and consider backing the reliable old-timer at 14/1 with Paddy Power each-way.
Oighear Dubh (12/1 Paddy Power) will go down as one of the most frustrating losers of 2018, having gone three lengths clear at Cheltenham last week, when ducking out and unseating his rider after the final fence.
That particular handicap chase was a competitive amateur rider's affair and, while this looks a tougher test, he races off a mark just 1lb higher. Unexposed over this 3m plus, Oighear Dubh is often held up off the pace and looks capable of putting in a bold show on his first attempt at this trip.
He looks sure to stay and, having proven his well-being at Cheltenham, Oighear Dubh looks worth backing each-way at 12/1 with Paddy Power for local trainer Eugene O’Sullivan.
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