Foxrock likely to miss Aintree showpiece for Irish Grand National

Ante-post favourite Minella Rocco will not travel to Liverpool after ‘hard race in Gold Cup’

Foxrock with Katie Walsh on board wins the Hunters Steeplechase at Leopardstown in February. The Ted Walsh-trained nine-year-old will not feature in the English Grand National. Photograph: Inpho

Foxrock with Katie Walsh on board wins the Hunters Steeplechase at Leopardstown in February. The Ted Walsh-trained nine-year-old will not feature in the English Grand National. Photograph: Inpho

 

Foxrock appears increasingly likely to sidestep the Randox Health Grand National in favour of a tilt at the Irish equivalent at Fairyhouse – despite being left in the Aintree showpiece at the latest confirmation stage.

The Ted Walsh-trained nine-year-old is a best-priced 25/1 for the Aintree spectacular on April 8th, but owner Barry Connell is favouring the BoyleSports Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse nine days later.

“At the moment, we’re leaning towards the Irish National,” Connell said. “I think the only thing that might make us change our minds is if it looked like it would come up soft in Aintree. We’ll have a better idea in 10 days or so, but the intention is to go to Fairyhouse as things stand.

“Not having to travel would be a plus and he’s still only a nine-year-old, so he could go for the Irish National this year and the English National next year. That would be the line of thought at this stage.”

Foxrock has made the most of having his sights lowered this winter, winning four consecutive races in the hunter chase sphere under the trainer’s daughter, Katie.

Comfortable

“To be winning those Grade One races consistently I think you need to be rated in the mid-160s,” Connell added. “When you’re rated in the low to mid-150s, you can be placed, but you always seem to have a hard race as the horse is going a stride quicker than they’re comfortable with.

“That’s why we decided to switch him to hunter chases and it seems to have worked out well. He’s got his confidence back and it was always the idea to give him four or five runs and then give him a go in a big handicap at the end of the season.

“If he did happen to win [the Irish Grand National], that would be great, but if he doesn’t he still qualifies for all the hunter chases next season again, including Cheltenham and Aintree.”

Seventy-nine horses were left in the race, but ante-post favourite Minella Rocco has been taken out. The seven-year-old posted his best effort to date in finishing second to Sizing John in last week’s Cheltenham Gold Cup and appeared to be favourably treated.

However, trainer Jonjo O’Neill has confirmed he will not line up on Merseyside, with connections taking a long-term view on the horse’s future.

Hard race

Owner JP McManus’s racing manager Frank Berry said: “He’s finished for the year now, he won’t be going to Punchestown either. He’s only seven and he had a hard race in the Gold Cup. It will take him a while to get over it so we felt we’d just look to next year with him.”

While Minella Rocco will not represent O’Neill and McManus at Aintree, the 2014 World Hurdle winner More Of That will tackle the Grand National. He finished sixth in the Gold Cup, beaten just under 10 lengths in what was his best effort since switching to fences following his 2014 Festival triumph.

“More Of That came out of the Gold Cup well and will now head to Aintree for the National,” O’Neill said.

The trainer also took out 2014 Irish National winner Shutthefrontdoor. Others to have been scratched include Road To Riches, Alary, Sausalito Sunrise, Carole’s Destrier, Junction Fourteen and Out Sam.

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