EVER since Willie Mullins popped on a press call to launch the Easter Festival at Fairyhouse, Nick Rockett has been hot in the betting for the BoyleSports Irish Grand National on Monday.

You can see why, he is a lightly raced operator who has done most of his best work around Fairyhouse, was kept from Cheltenham for this target, likes soft ground, is trained by the best of all time, will have Paul Townend on his back and even the handicapper himself on the same call admitted that he could have his mark wrong at 146. With all that said, the price ship has sailed and a price of 4/1 at the time of writing looks skinny.

Second favourite Intense Raffles has just seven runs to his name and is two for two, both wins at Fairyhouse, since joining Tom Gibney, who won the Irish National with Lion Na Bearnaí in 2012.

Those two wins were impressive - the first came against Where It All Began who has significantly boosted that form since and his latest score was a 43-length victory over Brampton Belle. He has been whacked up to a mark of 140 but the potential is there for another big run.

Classic question

On the other end of the spectrum is Any Second Now who poses that classic question for punters - is he gone at the game or has he been plotted up beautifully? Well, if his career is anything to go by, there is every chance it is the latter.

The Ted Walsh-trained, J.P. McManus-owned chaser seems to have been campaigned as an Aintree National horse for all of his career and can be counted as most unlucky not to have won that contest - having been impeded by a faller when third to Minella Times in 2021 and then finding only the seriously well handicapped Noble Yeats too good the following year. He is probably not at that level now as a 12-year-old, but is he as far away from it as a mark of 140 suggests? Perhaps not, because just over a year ago he was a 15-length fourth to Galopin Des Champs in an Irish Gold Cup when holding an assessment of 162.

He has struggled along in the top handicap chases so far this term but now is his time of year and he showed signs of life on his warm up run for this when seventh to Raglan Road over hurdles at Naas.

We’llhavewan will just about get into the weights with Gordon Elliott stating current top weight Farouk D’alene will not be declared, and there is a lot to like about Willie Mullins’ chaser.

He was backed off the boards for the Grand National Trial at Punchestown only to find Where It All Began too stong, but he will meet that runner on much better terms now and he remains potentially very well treated off a mark of 123, 13lb below his hurdles assessment after he made signficant improvement in that sphere earlier in the season.

With the ground so heavy, it makes sense to get one on side that you know will handle the stamina test and that has to be Gavin Cromwell’s Yeah Man.

He has had a really good season, falling when running a big race in the Sodexo Live Gold Cup at Ascot in November and then finishing second to Victtorino over the same course and distance in December.

He really showed his aptitude for this sort of staying test when a good winner of the Grand National Trial Handicap Chase over an extended three and a half miles on heavy ground at Haydock, and though 7lb higher in the weights now, he remains lightly raced with scope to improve again over this sort of trip.

Favori Du Champdou has the classic smart novice profile that often goes well in an Irish National.

You have to forgive him his two most recent efforts in Grade 1s but he was a very smart winner over Sandor Clegane at Punchestown in November and he appeals as one who could prosper over this staying test.

Ronan Groome’s Irish National 1-2-3-4

  • 1 Any Second Now 12/1
  • 2 We’llhavewan 16/1
  • 3 Yeah Man 12/1
  • 4 Favori Du Champdou 20/1