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Easter Monday sees the return of the Irish Grand National after its Covid-enforced absence in 2021. The Grand National at Fairyhouse is unsurprisingly one of the most prestigious fixtures on the racing calendar and one that ensures the winner will be forever brought up in conversation by people all over the country.

As a handicap, it gets better every year with the quality of horses entered. Now you really need a well handicapped Grade 1 horse to win. In the past it was an easier race to get into and a horse’s year could be planned towards it. Now with the handicap so high, it’s not so easy. You need a horse who’s performed well in advance. Novices have a great record in the race, so, you might look to horses who have been finishing in the top 3 or 4 in good novice company.

There is some talk of putting a claimer on Tiger Roll to take advantage of the weight. I’m not so sure about that as a strategy. I’d rather a jockey on him who knows him and trusts him like Keith O’Donoghue, who has a great bond with the horse. A lad who knows him well is worth more than a 7lb claim! Tiger Roll is a clever horse and might be too clever for a claimer!

I’m not sure if Tiger Roll is nailed on to win. He’s an undoubted superstar, and it would be great for the race to see him take part. I just have no idea how he will be jumping a normal fence on a normal track. It’s been so long since he did it.

Latest Exhibition is strong in the betting and has a strong chance but he jumped poorly in Leopardstown and needs to brush up on that. I’m not convinced he’s improved for jumping over fences. His hurdle form was stronger. Galvin is another solid contender but he could be high in the weights.

Coko Beach looks a nice chance. He won a novice chase last month and will see out the trip at Fairyhouse. Espanito Bello has similar form, beating Coko Beach in a beginner’s chase in December before finishing behind him last time out. I’d probably put my money on Coko Beach with maybe an each-way bet on Espanito Bello. This is a very hard race to win but I think both of these horses have the right sort of preparation.

A good start will be very important in this race. It is all about getting into a good rhythm. In a big field like this the inside can get very messy, so, ideally you will be in the first ten with a bit of room around you. If you are not up front, it is quiet a hard track to make up ground on from the back. In general, Fairyhouse is a fair track for horses who are on speed.

It will be a really special one for the winner. The prize money is great, but the prestige of the race is greater still. It will be different this year without a crowd. The crowd at Fairyhouse on Easter Monday are special, as real jumps racing fans they appreciate and applaud a good performance regardless of the price. When I won the race it is was on a 33/1 shot. They weren’t shouting at me much as I went around the track but there was a very warm welcome as I entered the enclosure all the same!

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