A. J. Martin’s Heathfield (5/1) was the well fancied 4/1 favourite for this race at last year’s festival and went on to prove the punters right, running a patient race, before making his move with four to go, leaving the Audacious Plan four lengths behind at the finishing post. He struggled to recapture that form for a few races, finishing ninth behind Minella Foru and Cheltenham winner Empire Of Dirt on separate occasions, but returned to winning ways at Navan in April, winning a modest Handicap Hurdle buy five lengths. He was backed all the way into favouritism for the Scottish Grand National last month, but never really travelled. He’s worth another try with 4 places at 1/4 odds Each Way back in this race though, especially with Barry Geraghty back on board.
Another beaten favourite in a big race over the Spring was Jim Dreaper’s Sizing Coal (7/1), who was heavily back in the build-up to the Midlands National at Uttoxeter in March, but weakened quickly and was pulled up before the fourth last. It was a similar story for the eight year old is this race last year, where he was pushed along at the rear of the field by Johnny Burke, before being pulled up before the second last. However, he finished third behind Thunder And Roses and Rule The World in the 2015 Irish National, and his best performance of this season was coming in six lengths behind Jury Duty in a decent two and a half miler in February.
Fletchers Flyer (6/1) has been a consistent performer so far this season, after some good placing’s in strong, small field contests. He was the odds-on favourite when coming second to Onenightinvienna on his seasonal reappearance at Exeter, but followed it up with a good third at Cheltenham in December, coming in behind his Exeter conqueror and future RSA Champion Blaklion. Harry Fry’s eight year old then went off as the even-money favourite ahead of Value At Risk and Drumacoo on his last run at Huntington in January, but could only finish a distant second behind the later in second place. This trip will be half a mile longer than any he has tackled before and it will be very interesting to see how he handles his first crack at a large field handicap, but he looks to have enough quality to cope.
Three of the last five winners of this race have come from the lower end of the weight, so with that in mind Forever Gold (10/1) looks to be in with a good shout and brings plenty of good form into this big festival race. He won on heavy ground at Leopardstown in December, beating Russian Bill and Cheltenham Champion Mall Dini in a Pertemps Qualifying race. That win came just a few weeks after coming a very close second to Bless The Wings over 29 furlongs at Fairyhouse. He’s won on this kind of going before and finished second to Just Cause on a similar surface last time out. He could be in with a big shout at a bigger price.