Irish Grand National Weekend: Ante-post analysis

Punchestown Festival

For the opening week of my ante-post column for, I’m happy with how things turned out with the Irish Grand National just around the corner.

Saga wasn’t declared – but if anyone followed me on my Twitter (@ASymondsJourno) they would have found the Lincoln winner with Migration -, Sleeping Lion ran okay but couldn’t get past fifth, and Fast Response, put up at 12/1, went off the 4/1 joint-favourite and finished second to Vadream.

All in all, a fair weekend.

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With this in mind, while many will be on Easter egg hunts all weekend, I have been on the hunt for a few ante-post winners and I have a few horses leading the line.

However, I did take a deep look into all of the action over on the latest Only Fools Love Horses video, which was sponsored by

So, let’s dive in.


All hail the King

HORSE: King Of Bavaria

RACE: tote World Pool Scottish Sprint Cup (Saturday, 3:00)

PRICE: 12/1

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This is a very nice race and I’ve had to wait until Wednesday to pull the trigger as he was entered for the all-weather finals at Newcastle, however, connections have not declared him, and it looks like they are set to run him on the turf up at Musselburgh instead.

With 6-10mm of rain predicted across Wednesday and Thursday, the already Good to Soft ground could end up being soft by the time racing starts.

With that in mind, KING OF BAVARIA looks to be unexposed off a mark of 97 for Michael Appleby.

The former Aidan O’Brien gelding was a $300,000 yearling and sold to Craig & Laura Buckingham for one-sixth of that price four months ago.

For the master of Ballydoyle, he won his first two starts on the track on soft ground and ran a good race in defeat when looking a bit green in the Listed Committed Stakes at Navan behind New York City, Cadamosto, and Straight Answer, all horses who are rated between 105 and 110.

Following an average autumn in handicaps over in Ireland and one appearance in the Group 3 Renaissance Stakes, he moved over to the UK this winter.

Two conservative runs at Southwell and Lingfield preceded a nice run over six furlongs last time out at Newcastle off Saturday’s handicap mark and a return to five furlongs on turf should see him at his best.

For reference, he won a Naas handicap on heavy ground on his second start off a two-pound lower mark and he looked impressive then, so for this former 105-rated gelding, I hope he can be competitive on Saturday.


Grand price in the National

HORSE: Champagne Platinum

RACE: Boylesports Irish Grand National

PRICE: 33/1

There are two horses heading my fancies for the Irish National, both at varying ends of the handicap.

The main selection is CHAMPAGNE PLATINUM for Enda Bolger in the famous green and gold silks of JP McManus.

Having finished a staying-on eighth last year off a three-pound lower mark, this nine-year-old ran a super race behind a trio of Gigginstown horses in the Grand National Trial at Punchestown in February.

The ground is set to be very testing at the Irish track on Monday and this gelding has good form in softer conditions having finished second to Death Duty last year off a one-pound higher mark after beating Ain’t That A Shame, the now 146-rated horse, in a beginners’ chase the start before.

All of the reasons mentioned above would point to a big run, it’s a competitive race, but I’m willing to side with the gallant grey for the €500,000 contest.

However, flying the flag for the British in the race, 25/1 about ROYALE PAGAILLE is extremely interesting to me.

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What are the defining factors that this Venetia Williams-trainer nine-year-old needs? A marathon trip. Check. Bottomless ground. Check. A handicap. Check.

Believe it or not, Royale Pagaille’s official mark of 160 is his lowest handicap rating for two years and having bolted up in the 2022 Peter Marsh Handicap Chase on soft ground off 163, he looks to be well-in.

A 16-length victory in the 2021 renewal of the formerly mentioned Peter Marsh off just a four-pound lower rating on heavy ground also reads extremely well and he holds a 100% record in handicaps, a stat that not many horses can reel off.

I wouldn’t put anyone off backing both horses each way at 33/1 and 25/1 respectively, and the more I look at it, the more I’m getting excited about the latter.

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