Elliott could have up to 10 runners in Irish National

One For Arthur ‘absolutely brilliant’ after Aintree success

Gordon Elliott had to settle for the runner-up spot in Saturday's Aintree National but he is preparing to run up to 10 horses in next week's Boylesports Irish Grand National, which could be crucial to his chances of being crowned champion trainer.

Elliott's bid to dethrone Willie Mullins has been a highlight for much of the season, and he still holds a lead of over €300,000 on his great rival with less than three weeks to go.

Both men have pointed to Easter Monday's Fairyhouse National – and the largest ever prize-fund for a National Hunt race in Ireland – as a potentially decisive factor ahead of the season finale at Punchestown.

Neither Mullins or Elliott has ever won the Irish National before, although the latter was just edged out when Bless The Wings was beaten by Rogue Angel a year ago. Elliott ran half a dozen in that race, and could be even more heavily represented this time.


‘‘Whatever gets into the race we would hope to run. I would say we’ll definitely have seven, eight, maybe even 10 runners, depending on what gets in,” he said on Sunday.

A maximum field of 30 will be declared on Good Friday for the €500,000 highlight which currently has the Jessica Harrington-trained Our Duke topping most betting lists at 10-1. Elliott’s Noble Endeavor is a 12-1 second-favourite. His stable companion Outlander is the current topweight.

Unseated his rider

The Co Meath trainer has 10 of the current top-30 horses in the handicap, including Saturday’s Aintree National runner-up Cause Of Causes, and Roi Des Francs who also ran at Aintree. Ucello Conti, who unseated his rider at Becher’s, is currently No 31 on the Fairyhouse long-list.

Cause Of Causes will not run again this season, and Elliott said: "Noble Endeavor will run at Fairyhouse, Lord Scoundrel will run, and Tiger Roll too. As for others, we'll have to see how they get on during the week."

A decade after his breakthrough Aintree National success with Silver Birch, Elliott came up agonisingly short on Saturday as Cause Of Causes found the Scottish runner One For Arthur4½ lengths too good.

‘‘No excuses – he was just beaten by a better horse on the day. He came there with his chance two out, and I would just say he has been outstayed. He’s run a blinder and Jamie [Codd] gave him a great ride,” said Frank Berry, racing manager to Cause Of Causes’ owner JP McManus.

Absolutely brilliant

One For Arthur is also set for his summer holidays after trainer

Lucinda Russell

confirmed the latest National hero had emerged “absolutely brilliant” from his efforts.

Another consequence of Saturday’s race is that 31 of the 40 jockeys have been referred to the British Horseracing Authority after it took three starts to begin the National. The starter reported them for approaching the tape before the flag was raised.

The 31 include top Irish jockeys Ruby Walsh, Barry Geraghty, Bryan Cooper and Davy Russell, who finished third on Saint Are.

It is the latest controversy surrounding the National start. In 2014, there were chaotic scenes when jockeys refused to hear the outcome of a subsequent stewards inquiry after attempting to line up before the start time. The assistant starter was also knocked down by a horse.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column