Marcus looks the pick

 

Fairyhouse preview and report: Arthur Moore has had a bittersweet relationship with the Powers Gold Label Irish Grand National in recent years but Marcus Du Berlais looks to have a good chance of taking the Co Kildare trainer back into the winners enclosure this afternoon.

Marcus Du Berlais will try to become the first grey to win the 250,000 Easter Monday feature since Son Of War in 1994 after getting agonisingly close to doing just that last year.

That second to Granit D'Estruval was actually the third time in the previous eight years that a Moore-trained horse had to make do with the runner-up position but this time Moore comes in force with both Native Jack and Jaquouille also taking their chance.

The latter looks to hold a real shout as well but Marcus Du Berlais still looks the most likely of the trio to return the Moore name to the number-one spot.

Feathered Gale in 1996 was a memorable triumph for the trainer who also rode King's Sprite to win the traditional Easter highlight in 1971. His father, Dan, also won with Tied Cottage in 1979.

All told it is a record to reckon with, a comment that also applies to Moore's Naas colleague Michael O'Brien who has won the National three times before and goes to war this time with the JP McManus-owned Kadoun.

With Le Coudray, also owned by McManus, topping the weights Kadoun gets in here with 11st 3lb. But only four of the last 15 winners have raced with more than 10st 12lb on their backs and that quartet included topweights of the calibre of Desert Orchid and Flashing Steel. It should pay to look further down the handicap.

Point Barrow, who headed some of the ante-post betting lists last week, is on a handy looking 10st 9lb but his connections have hardly been gushing confidence on the run up.

In contrast What Odds, trained locally by "Tucker" Geraghty and ridden by his son, Ross, who won on The Bunny Boiler three years ago, is perched perfectly on 10st and has been backed by his owner Mike Futter over the weekend. Futter's bank manager will no doubt testify to such moves usually being more successful than not and What Odds looks a real player today. One slight doubt, however, is that the ground might not be quite as soft as he would ideally like.

Numbersixvalverde is another who likes to get his toe in and he will be trying to become just the sixth horse to complete the Thyestes-Irish National double.

He and Kymandjen look locked together on Gowran form but Numbersixvalverde looks likely to give Ruby Walsh more options in running.

Pearly Jack is 7lb out of the handicap proper but looks to have a big shout based on his unlucky experience at Cheltenham when brought down in the Kim Muir.

All told though Marcus Du Berlais has had this day as his target ever since losing out last year and his preparation looks to have gone well.

A smooth success under Barry Cash in the Leopardstown Chase was a valuable bonus along the way and a previous run over hurdles will have little bearing on what happens today.

In addition to a "winnable" weight of 10.9, Danny Howard takes a valuable 3lb off his back and the jockey knows how to win these valuable staying prizes having won last year's betfred Gold Cup at Sandown on Puntal.

So on what is forecast to be a grey afternoon, the almost white Marcus Du Berlais looks the one to focus on.