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Foxrock looks likely for Irish Grand National glory bid

By Keith Hamer

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

The Ted Walsh-trained nine-year-old is a best-priced 25/1 for the big race on April 8, 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. I think the only thing that might make us change our minds is if it looked like it would come up soft in Aintree," said Connell.

"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.

"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."

Seventy-nine horses have been left in the Aintree Grand National, but ante-post favourite Minella Rocco has been taken out.

Trainer Jonjo O'Neill said: "Minella Rocco ran a cracking race to finish second in the Gold Cup, but he had a hard race.

"He's only seven, so we've decided to take our time with him and give him a rest and bring him back next season for another go at the Gold Cup, and then maybe the National."

O'Neill has also taken out 2014 Irish National winner Shutthefrontdoor, which has been earmarked for Fairyhouse on Easter Monday.

Others scratched include Road To Riches, Alary, Sausalito Sunrise, Carole's Destrier, Junction Fourteen and Out Sam.

Clan Des Obeaux got his career back on track following a disappointing display in a Grade One contest at Sandown with a hard-fought success in the Higos Insurance Services Novices' Chase at Exeter.

The Paul Nicholls-trained five-year-old had fluffed his lines when sent off market lead for the Scilly Isles Novices' Chase when last of five behind Top Notch, who went on to finish second in the JLT at Cheltenham.

It was therefore back to the drawing board for Clan Des Obeaux and a confidence-boosting victory needed.

Belfast Telegraph

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