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Tony's Trends - The Irish National - Will Tony's Darts be on Target Today?

The Irish National, 3 Miles 5 Furlongs, Fairyhouse, April 18 2022

I have yet to see the result of the Spring Cup, but the selection was backed into favouritism (definitely not with the weight of my cash). Then again, if you look at replays, you’ll see why Saleymm is on all shortlists and the record of those who placed at Doncaster added to the appeal.

Like I said, the selection was unoriginal, but sometimes the Trends will inevitably guide you to the most obvious form pick too.

I’m going to try the impossible today for the 20th edition of the Trends, by applying them to an Irish Handicap. These races are often the subject of plots and trainers laying one out and protecting the Handicap mark to land a massive prize.

Fairyhouse is a right-handed, galloping track, with a slightly uphill 3 furlong finish, so you’ll often see the complexion of the race change late on. The runners will have to navigate the 3 miles 5 furlongs trip, 24 fences and the errors of those around them, if they are to prevail. Once again, luck in running is crucial.

As always, I will look back over the winners since 1988, which is the earliest year I can get records on the Internet from. I’ll see what the 33 previous winners have in common and use those Trends to reduce the 30-runner field down to a more manageable size to consider.

Ages

Since 1988 all 33 winners have been aged six years (x 2, both of which have been in the last 10 years), seven years (x 11), eight years (x 8), nine years (x 5), ten years (x 4) or eleven years (x 3, the last of which came in 1997).

Odds

This is possibly one of the most open Handicaps in terms of SP for previous winners. There has been everything from an even money Favourite (Desert Orchid in 1990) to a 150/1 outsider (Freewheeling Dylan last year) winning.

Over the past 20 years just three Favourites have won. Two were high-class novices (Our Duke and Burrows Saint) while odds of 11/1, or bigger, were returned 14 times and on ten of these occasions, the odds were 20/1 or more.

Weights

A wide range of weights have been carried, but more recently, it has paid to look at those carrying less than 11-00. Since 2000, only two horses have carried more than that (Comanche Court in 2000 and Our Duke in 2017).

Both were first season Novice Chasers, with four and three previous Chase runs respectively and went on to run in the Cheltenham Gold Cup). Twenty-two of the last 25 winners and 17 of the last 18 winning horses carried 10-13 or less.

  • The last 20 winners achieved a seasonal RPR of at least 118, with 19 out of 20 achieving a mark of 133 or more.
  • The last 20 winners all achieved a seasonal OR between 108 and 153, with 17 achieving at least 124.
  • Horses tend to be specifically aimed at this race and often they will have tuned up with a run at Cheltenham, or at Leopardstown in one of its showcase meetings (although the last two winners did not meet this criterion).
  • No runner since 2000 has come here with less than a 17-day break, and only Bobbyjo, (who’s tune-up was over an inadequate Hurdles trip) came with less than that since 1988.
  • Runners generally have had less than twenty Chase runs, with 19 of the last 20 having had 17 or less and 18 having had 13 or less.
  • 18 out of 20 previous winners had triumphed over a distance of at least 3 miles, with one of those who did not, placing in the race the year before and the other running from out of the Handicap.

In short, the Trends indicate we are looking for a horse carrying 10-13 or less that is aged from six to ten years.

Firstly, I will discount the twelve horses that are set to carry 11-00 or more. In racecard order, those are:

  • Franco De Port
  • Battleoverdoyen
  • Run Wild Fred
  • Gaillard Du Mesnil * 
  • Mount Ida
  • Ronald Pump
  • Farclas (who was kept back for this after running well at Aintree last year)
  • Early Doors
  • Enjoy D’allen
  • Samcro
  • Diol Ker
  • Screaming Colours

* Gaillard Du Mesnil may be the Handicap blot, like the other novices who carried more than 11-00, but even they had just 11-04.

Now, I will discount the two remaining runners who are coming here after disappointing at Aintree, which removes Death Duty and School Boy Hours.

I will also discount any runner who has not won over a distance of 3 miles, come close, or run well in the last year. In racecard order, those are Max Flamingo, Lieutenant Command and Aramax (who has also been off the course longer than any previous winner).

Further discussion

We are now left with 13 qualifiers based on the Trends:

  • Off You Go
  • Fakir D’Alene
  • Velvet Elvis
  • Champagne Platinum
  • Floueur
  • Ten Ten
  • Frontal Assault
  • Time To Get Up
  • Fulltime Score
  • Mister Fogpatches
  • Streets of Doyen
  • Lord Lariat 
  • Smoking Gun

I have an angle to reduce this a little more. Mark Walsh, who is retained by JP McManus to ride for him, has selected Ten Ten, so I will choose to trust him and discount the others JP owns, which are Off You Go (who ran well here last year) Time To Get Up and Champagne Platinum.

While I accept Ten Ten has not actually won over 3 miles, he has touched off twice over that distance, so I know he stays. While he does not fit the Trends perfectly, I know how much JP loves to win this race. As evidenced by entering a total of eight horses. So, I will make the quirky Ten Ten a saver.

While we saw a 150/1 winner last year, I do not see this happening again. I do not think that Lord Lariat has the class needed, while Streets of Doyen has struggled since being sent over fences and I will discount both on form.

I will now look at the Elliot runners. I note that while Fakir D’Alene ran well in the Kim Muir, he has a relatively inexperienced Claimer on board. So, for this race I’ll avoid a 7lb Claimer, who has yet to ride a winner over jumps.

Floueur was sent off favourite for the Ultima, before running poorly enough to trail into 10th place. The excuse was that the horse wanted slower ground, which will definitely not be the case at Fairyhouse on Monday, so I will pass on this one too.

Frontal Assault was all the rage before Cheltenham and was put up by many as a plot horse for the Kim Muir, being the long-time ante-post Favourite for the race. He was never really going, but was carrying the top weight of 11-09 and is a carrying a stone less here.

Smoking Gun won over course and distance here last November and also ran in the Kim Muir, but has drifted in the betting. Also, his jumping may cost him long before the business end, so I will pass on him too.

Full Time Score, running for the powerful combination of the De Bromhead and Blackmore partnership, is one of the market principals at around 7/1. He is a really good Trends fit, beating Discorama last time out at the course over 3 miles and has plenty of scope for improvement, after just four Chase starts. The only negative for me is the current form of the trainer, which has not been firing winners in as much as I’d expect from such a powerful yard.

Mister Fogpatches is another who looks good on Trends. He also ran in the Kim Muir and his third place, behind Longhouse Poet and Franco De Poort, looks well. But again, the concerns I have are his jumping, which has resulted in the comment of “not fluent” all too often. In addition, the fact that the yard has not had a winner in over 80 days, tempers confidence and in such a competitive race I’ll discount him too.

Velvet Elvis is trained by lesser- known trainer Thomas Gibney, but he still managed to produce the winner of the race in 2012 (Lion Na Bearnai). This horse was bought for £95,000 in 2020 and has most likely been aimed at this ever since.

He has had just four Chase starts, winning last time out over 3 miles at Navan. He has a close form line to Frontal Assault, when both were behind Ciel De Neige in November. Navan has a very stiff uphill finish and the horse stayed on well that day, without being given an overly-hard time.

The 2022 Irish National - my conclusion

The main selection is therefore Frontal Assault from the Elliot yard, as the weight he has to carry, just 10-07, fits the Trends slightly better than Velvet Elvis, bearing in mind that 15 of the last 18 previous winners carried 10-08 or less.

It is difficult to put up a single-price saver in a race such as this, so I will not try to force the selection of Full Time Score. Rather, I will go for two that meet the Trends, have prices that will pay if they come in the top six or seven places.

Ten Ten, as the JP McManus-owned selection and Velvet Elvis, for the small yard taking on the big boys and hoping for a dream ending.

At the time of writing, not all bookies have priced this race up, or gone the full number of EW places, so please keep checking at Betting.co.uk and Oddschecker for the best offers and prices for the three darts I am throwing here.

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