Tony McCoy cautious of Cantlow’s hopes for Irish Grand National
Paul Webber’s horse a stone better off from eighth-place finish at Fairyhouse last year
Tony McCoy will ride Cantlow in his final Irish Grand National appearance at Fairyhouse on Easter Monday. Photograph: David Davies/PA
Tony McCoy appears only hopeful as he bids for a second BoyleSports Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse on Easter Monday.
The soon-to-retire champion struck gold aboard Butler’s Cabin for Jonjo O’Neill in 2007 and this time partners Cantlow for Paul Webber, one of three runners in the green and gold colours of JP McManus.
The 10-year-old was eighth in last year’s renewal to current Aintree Grand National favourite Shutthefrontdoor.
McCoy told Channel 4 Racing: “It’s a process of elimination really, I thought If In Doubt had a big task with top weight as a novice. He ran okay at Cheltenham but in a 30-runner Irish National we just decided to claim off him to hopefully give him a better chance.
“Alderwood has just been very out of sorts all season. I rode Cantlow at Kempton last time, he choked his head off, we put a tongue tie on him since and I’ve ridden him a couple of times at home and I felt like he was better.
“He ran okay in the race last year and he’s a bit lower in the weights, but it’s kind of a process of elimination really. I thought just at the weights he probably had a better chance than the other two.”
Webber said: “He ran well there last year under top weight, travelled well to the second-last and probably the weight told then.
“He’s a stone better off but he probably deserves to be as he hasn’t had the most successful of winters.
“He looked like running a good race (Kempton), the ground was a bit drier and we were hopeful. But AP (McCoy) reported he choked terrible on the bend turning into the straight and he couldn’t get his air, whether he swallowed his tongue or not we don’t know.
“We tried in him a tongue tie at home and everything has been fine since. Let’s hope it was a one-off thing and all we can do is take the precautions of a tongue tie and hope things don’t happen again.
“He handles the track, he’s run very well right handed, the more it dries the better, if it’s very testing and heavy I don’t think that will help.”
The Jim Dreaper-trained Los Amigos returns to Fairyhouse with a leading chance having won in January, and will be having only his 17th career start despite being an eight-year-old.
Dreaper said: “He’s lightly raced, not by choice, he had a few little issues that prevented him running more often than he has done.
“His jumping’s been good. I don’t think better ground would be an issue, but I’d say he’d be more effective on soft.
“He’s only run once this winter. We think he’s fine now. We’re very hopeful that hopefully this Easter he can do it.”
Owner Barry Connell has two chances, although ground conditions might not suit both his contenders.
The Ted Walsh-trained Champagne James was the gambled-on favourite for the Kim Muir at Cheltenham but could only manage seventh, while Shark Hanlon’s Usuel Smurfer was down the field in a handicap hurdle at Leopardstown in January.
Connell said: “For a while it looked like Champagne James wasn’t going to get in so we’re pleased that he has.
“It’s testing ground and that shouldn’t bother him but it won’t help the other lad.
“If it was still very testing he might not run, if it does dry up he would have a bit of an each-way chance.”
Paddy Power Chase third Vics Canvas represents Dermot McLoughlin, who has a strong family connection with the historic race.
He said of his 12-year-old: “He seems in good form and we’re looking forward to it.
“We’d have liked to have had a couple more runs for a bit more experience, it’s hard to believe we’re saying that about a 12-year-old, but that’s where we are and that’s what we have to go with.
“He had a few problems. He had a leg injury, a tendon injury and a had a lot of trouble early on with ulcers. We didn’t get going with him until he was seven.
“We don’t abuse him. He’s a very handy horse to train luckily enough. We don’t have to do much with him, so we can go race to race with a fresh horse.”
He added: “My father rode the winner of it in 1962 (Kerforo). We’re just hoping we get him there in one piece and see what happens after that.
“It’s a big handicap, you need a bit of luck on the day. Soft ground would be ideal.”
Top hunter chase Tammys Hill runs for just the fourth time since striking gold at the Cheltenham Festival last season.
His trainer Liam Lennon said: “It will be more of an achievement for the owners as they bred this horse.
“There’ll be bus loads going down to see him, we’ve always called him the community horse.
“We think we have him back to where he was before he went to Cheltenham. We think he’s in that sort of form.
“These past six weeks the build up has been identical to the one we had for Cheltenham last year, so fingers crossed.”
Lots Of Memories is another prominent in the market and has been competing against some of the best in novice company, including when third to Don Poli in the Topaz Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas.
His trainer Paul Fahey said: “His pedigree on the sire’s side suggest he’ll stay and the few times we’ve run him over three miles you couldn’t say stamina was an issue.”