Junior in line to fly cross-channel flag

Pipe considers Irish National

Junior has packed a lot into his 40-race career, including victories at both Royal Ascot and the Cheltenham Festival but could now try his luck in Ireland this Easter Monday if given the green light to run in Fairyhouse's Ladbrokes Irish Grand National.

It is 22 years since David Pipe 's father, Martin, landed the Easter showpiece with Omerta and the Somerset trainer is weighing up the chances of sending his star stayer to Fairyhouse for a possible repeat.

The five-day forfeit stage for the National takes place today, with final declarations on Friday, but Fairyhouse's manager Peter Roe is confident Junior will provide a cross-channel element to the €250,000 National which was last won by a cross-channel raider in 2009 with Niche Market.

“We’re hopeful Nicky (Henderson) will send something (both Quantativeeasing and Prince Of Pirates are currently entered by the British champion-trainer elect) and we’re pretty sure Junior will come,” Roe said yesterday.

A spokesperson for Pipe was less committal yesterday but admitted: “We are considering it. David will speak to the owners and then we’ll see with the forfeit stage coming up.”

Junior was among the 25/1 outsiders for the National yesterday, although the shape of one of Ireland’s most famous races will become clearer today when connections leave in or remove their horses.

Tony Martin, a National winner with Davids Lad 12 years ago, is pondering whether or not to run his good novice Dedigout in the National. "He's in good form and ready to run whenever we want him to," said Martin yesterday.

"We'll see what way the entries are going and I'll talk to the people involved (Gigginstown Stud) and go from there."

[CROSSHEAD]Ground conditions
[/CROSSHEAD]What seems certain is that ground conditions for the Easter festival, which begins on Sunday, and is worth just shy of a €1 million in prize-money over the three days, will be testing.

The going at Fairyhouse yesterday was heavy but despite the continuation of widespread cancellations in Britain and Ireland, including today's scheduled Leopardstown fixture which failed an inspection yesterday morning, no problems are anticipated for the Bank Holiday weekend action at the Co Meath course.

“Based on the information I’m getting weather-wise, there is absolutely no threat,” said Peter Roe. “We are perfectly raceable at the moment and the long-range forecast is for drier weather. I’m certainly a lot happier than I was last Friday.”

The Easter festival will open on Sunday with a dual-Grade One card that features the €90,000 Powers Gold Cup and the newly-installed Grade One Irish Stallion Farms Mares Novice Hurdle over two and a half miles.

Just seven have been left in the new race after yesterday’s cancellation stage and champion trainer Willie Mullins dominates with four entries, including the exciting unbeaten mare, Annie Power.

Mullins also has Glens Melody and Unika La Reconce in the race while the opposition is likely to be headed by Mick Winters’ versatile mare, Missunited.

Mullins also holds a strong hand in the Powers Gold Cup with Aupcharlie and Arvika Ligeonniere entered to bounce back from poor Cheltenham Festival efforts - alongside Mikel D’Haguenet - among a dozen-strong entry in total.

Like the Irish National though, Mullins has yet to win the Powers Gold Cup.