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Home / News / Irish Grand National preview: Rockett aims to land

Irish Grand National preview: Rockett aims to land

Gavin Cromwell has two strong chances in Yeah Man and Hartur D’arc as he goes in search of a first victory in the BoyleSports Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse (live on RTÉ2/RTÉ Player).

Yeah Man has been campaigned exclusively in England this winter, lining up twice at Ascot, falling when holding every chance at the last in November before finishing a close second in December, and then he gained success in the Grand National Trial at Haydock.

Hartur D’arc has won both his starts for the yard since switching from Tom Gibney, winning a beginners’ chase at Clonmel and stepping up considerably to land the Leinster National at Naas.

“Yeah Man and Hartur D’arc are definitely intended runners. We’re happy with them both and looking forward to the race,” said Cromwell, who has no fears about testing ground for either of them.

“I don’t think the trip or ground will be a problem for Yeah Man. He stayed very well on the heavy ground when winning at Haydock the last day, so conditions should suit.

“I’m not so sure about the trip with Hartur D’arc, although he did stay well in the Leinster National. We’ve a good bit further to go in the Irish Grand National, so that’s a little bit of an unknown. But he’s going into the race in good form and if he stays, he’s definitely in with a good chance.”

Numerically, Gordon Elliott has the strongest team with seven, headed by Where It All Began, fourth in the Kim Muir last time out.

“Where It All Began has made great strides lately and we’re delighted with his last two runs at Punchestown, where he won, and Cheltenham, where he was fourth. Ground suits, trip suits. He ticks plenty of boxes,” said Elliott.

“Favori De Champdou had some very nice form earlier in the season. He possibly wasn’t at his best last time but has had a nice break since and is in good order. Conditions will suit and hopefully he’ll run well.

“Diol Ker has been struggling for form all season. Plenty of his old form would give him a great chance and he has shown a bit on a couple of occasions this season but ultimately, he’s got plenty to do on recent efforts.

“Dunboyne has pulled up the last twice, having shaped far better than the final result. He’s left us scratching our heads a little bit. He seems very well and we know the ability is in there.

“Frontal Assault was second to Lord Lariat in 2022. He’s not the most consistent but the last run in Naas was quite encouraging and given his performance in the race a couple of years ago, he’s in with a live each-way shot.

“Cool Survivor disappointed in Cheltenham. His previous run in the Leopardstown Chase was quite encouraging but he needs to step up from last time.

“Royal Thief is in a similar boat to Diol Ker. He’d have form going back to make him an interesting contender but it just hasn’t been happening for him this season.”

Willie Mullins’ Nick Rockett has been ante-post favourite for weeks and has been kept fresh since finishing second in the Ten Up Novice Chase.

Patrick Mullins, assistant to his father, who also runs Minella Cocooner and We’llhavewan, said: “Nick Rockett is not a big horse but has good Fairyhouse form. He has plenty of weight again but with his profile, is open to improvement.

“Minella Cocooner was a Grade One hurdler who has taken well to fences. It’s going to be a big ask with a lot of weight but he gained a lot of experience in his first handicap last time and has a good profile.

“We’llhavewan gets in at the bottom of the weights. He ran a really good race in the Grand National Trial and seems to be improving all the time. With his light weight on that sort of ground, he’d have to have a big chance and we’d be hoping he’d pick up some money.

“I don’t think the ground or distance will be a problem for any of them.”

Henry de Bromhead’s Senior Chief has only run over fences three times but remains unexposed.

“He seems in good form and we’re happy with him. We’re looking forward to Monday as he has good form on testing ground. Whether that combined with the trip might be an issue, I don’t know but he seems to stay well,” said De Bromhead.

Any Second Now is a veteran at the age of 12 but has been given a chance by the handicapper off a mark of 140, given he was second in the Aintree National off 159 two years ago.

Trainer Ted Walsh said: “He’s in good nick. Age is his biggest problem at 12. I know they say Brown Lad did it but he’s no Brown Lad in the first place. And Brown Lad didn’t start until he was seven – I won a bumper on him. This fella has been going since he was four. He has a lot of mileage on the clock.

“He ran all right in Punchestown and came on for the run in the Thyestes but I would have liked to see him pick up a few more on the run-in in Naas last time out. But he’s healthy and well, in good shape. He doesn’t look 12, he doesn’t act 12.

“I think he’ll run a good race and would be disappointed if he’s not in the first five or six. I won’t be surprised if he’s not in the money but would be over the moon if he won.

“He is versatile ground-wise bar fast and has won plenty on heavy ground. He’s won a Bobbyjo at Fairyhouse too, so hopefully he will run a good race.”

Tom Gibney’s Intense Raffles is another with a chance based on his two wins at this venue since moving to Ireland from France.

“It’s all good with Intense Raffles. We’re delighted with him. We’re happy with the horse and happy with the forecast. He will certainly have no problem with the ground and we’re hoping he’s still improving as he’s a young horse. We’re looking forward to it,” said Gibney.

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