Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 September 2014

The Punter: Poker has the hand for Irish National

The Grand National is on Saturday week but before that comes the Irish version at Fairyhouse on Easter Monday — weather permitting.

Always a difficult race to sort out — more so than the Aintree race — but one horse that has attracted ante-post support is the Paul Nolan-trained Alpha Ridge.

However, the eight-year-old is still a maiden over fences, having finished second three times this season, the last behind the talented Pandorama in the Drinmore Chase at Fairyhouse in December.

Ridge has been kept fresh but it’s hard to go for a maiden in a race of this nature.

Also, those who have taken odds of 25-1 will need a few runners to come out to let him in at the bottom of the handicap.

“There is no point just going for a novice race at this stage of the season so we'll have a crack at the National and that will be his last run,” said Nolan.

Saddlers Storm from the in-form yard of Tony Martin is the 7-1 favourite for the race won last year by Niche Market. Saddlers has a light weight of 9st 11lbs and has won his last three outings.

He has been laid out for the race while Cheltenham winners Poker De Sivola, Ballabriggs and A New Story are also due to run.

Poker De Sivola won the National Hunt Chase at the Festival and trainer Ferdy Murphy is not sending him over for the Irish air.

At 12-1, he is the each-way selection.

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