IN the last 15 years, British-trained horses have won 41 races under Irish National Hunt rules from 460 runners, based on races worth €50,000 or more.

That includes 24 at the Punchestown Festival, while between 1985 and 2014 there were no fewer than eight British-trained winners of the Irish Grand National.

In a stable tour for the 2024 flat season, Aidan O’Brien is quoted as saying “everyone wants to travel these days” to explain the growing internationalisation of the sport, but in 2024, not everyone wants to travel, it seems.

Despite historical success on Irish soil, the vast majority of UK-based trainers are turning their noses up at good prize money at Leopardstown, Fairyhouse and Punchestown.

It is a mystery to me why that is the case, especially as the few who make the effort are often rewarded, such as Sophie and Christian Leech, whose Madara picked up €59,000 for landing the Ryanair Handicap Chase at the Dublin Racing Festival.

Despite a flurry of wins in the Irish Grand National after Rhyme ‘N’ Reason had ended a lengthy Irish domination in the mid-’80s, the number of British runners at Fairyhouse.

The majority of those crossing the Irish Sea to run in the Irish National in the last couple of decades have been owned by J.P. McManus and presumably there at his request, and in the last 10 years, only Alpha Victor, Russe Blanc, Fletchers Flyer and Royale Pagaille have represented other owners from British stables.


Given the race is worth €500,000 and often goes to a rank outsider, it seems madness that there aren’t at least a few British runners every year.

What makes this situation even more confusing is that the home team are bemoaning the lack of English runners in the Grand National at Aintree.

Assuming connections weren’t just hoping for a miracle on Merseyside, why have those rated 145 and lower not been entered at Fairyhouse?

The rating required to get a run in the Irish Grand National is 120 this year – it will be a stone and a half higher for Aintree, but still no takers. If Freewheelin’ Dylan can do it…..

Doncaster eye-catchers

THE Lincoln meeting at Doncaster is always an intriguing one for the notebook as not only are there plenty of horses running who will improve for an outing, but there tends to be a bias at work there, either due to patchy ground or to wind, which comes into play on the Town Moor track more than at most venues.

Last Saturday was such a day, with a strong wind, either part across or in the runners’ faces, making it hard for those on the pace to last out on the straight track. That was less the case on Sunday, which was largely of limited interest.

First horse to go into my book was Astral Beau (Pam Sly) who fared much the best of those to race prominently in the Doncaster Mile, a race she won last year.

This time around she was no match for the classy Charyn, but broke well clear of the others and can be expected to win at this level soon.

She is often seen as a mudlark but ran well to make the frame in the Group 2 Dahlia Stakes at Newmarket’s Guineas meeting and the Group 3 Princess Elizabeth Stakes at Epsom on Derby Day, with the latter effort seeing her beaten just three-quarters of a length on good to firm ground.

I can see her running at least as well in those races again, and being from an unfashionable yard, the granddaughter of Sly’s 1000 Guineas heroine Speciosa could reward backers at big odds.

Stronger races

The Spring Mile and the Lincoln in particular tend to be stronger races than most turf handicaps which are run before the Guineas trials, and they tend to throw up more than their share of future winners – backing every beaten horse from last year’s Lincoln for a tenner at SP subsequently would have put you £817 in front at SP, for example, and it’s not hard to narrow down the qualifiers to those who were better than the result for various reasons.

Only one took my eye from the Spring Mile: Harswell Duke tried to make the running into the teeth of the wind and on the wrong side of the track and can be forgiven for fading into mid-division.

Winner of the race last year, he was quietly fancied to bounce back to form, but everything conspired against him. Dropped a generous 3lb for his defeat at Doncaster, he looks a very good bet to make amends at Pontefract on Tuesday.

In the Lincoln itself, those who raced prominently from high draws are again the ones to focus on, with the one to most take my eye being One Night Thunder. Gemma Tutty’s four-year-old colt attracted support and travelled well but was not helped by his track position on the day and wasn’t persevered with once his chance had gone.

Dropped 2lb for this run, he is now 4lb lower than when an excellent fourth to Dashing Roger on his debut for current connections at Newmarket in October. His only win to date came over seven furlongs and his enthusiastic running style makes me think that he will do better reverting to that trip.

Took the eye

Spirit Genie was ahead of One Night Thunder at Newmarket in October when he very much took the eye finishing strongly from a poor position. He shaped in similar fashion here, poorly drawn in stall 22, nearest the unfavoured stands’ rail. He then met trouble when trying to improve with over a quarter of a mile to go and plugging on willingly for sixth when the gap belatedly came for him.

Timeform declared that he “needs his sights lowering” on the back of this, but while he’s eligible for 0-85 handicaps now, I think he has shaped as if on the cusp of a big handicap win based on his turf starts since joining Jennie Candlish. He will find things developing more kindly for him somewhere soon, ideally on soft or heavy ground and at a mile.