Bookmakers at odds over Xenophon

IRISH bookmakers cannot agree about the chances of Xenophon in the Powers Gold Label Irish Grand National, with Paddy Power installing him 5-1 favourite and Cashmans going 14-1.

The eight-year-old bids to give Tony Martin a second win in the Easter Monday showpiece, following Davids Lad’s 2001 success.

Last year’s Coral Cup winner has failed to set the chasing world alight and is without a win in four starts over the bigger obstacles.

His best effort was arguably his latest, when he came home fifth, 16 lengths adrift of Pizarro, in the Dr PJ Moriarty Novice Chase at Leopardstown.

The Fairyhouse marathon has attracted a strong field, with the 43 left in the race at yesterday’s forfeit stage including last year’s winner Timbera, who was a Liverpool absentee after picking up a lung infection earlier in the week.

The 10-year-old is on the mend and a “hopeful” starter for the big spectacle.

Dessie Hughes, who trains the son of Commanche Run, said: “He’s improved a good bit but is not 100% yet, but hopefully he will be come next week.”

Last Saturday’s Aintree hero Amberleigh House’s stable companion Ebony Light is “only a possible” for the 3m5f stamina test, according to trainer Ginger McCain

“We’ll leave it open for a few days. I’ll talk to his owner (Roger Bellamy) before we make any final decision.”

Also ruled out is last year’s third Winning Dream after disappointing his trainer Oliver McKiernan. He said: “He didn’t work as well as we had hoped over the weekend so we scoped him and we discovered he has a lung infection.”

Irish Grand National betting:

Paddy Power: 5-1 Xenophon, 8-1 Native Jack, 10-1 Artic Jack, Kadoun, Timbera, 12-1 Hume Castle, Salco Express, 14-1 Colonel Rayburn, Le Coudray, Mini Sensation, Montayral, Never Compromise, 16-1 Back On Top, Ballybrophy, Direct Bearing, Munster, Ross Moff, Spot Thedifference, Tyneandthyneagain, 20-1 What Odds, 25-1 bar.

Cashmans: 8-1 Le Coudray, 10-1 Native Jack, Timbera, Hume Castle, Montayral, Direct Bearing, 12-1 Artic Jack, Kadoun, Mini Sensation, Tyneandthyneagain, 14-1 Xenophon, Red Striker, Back On Top, Ross Moff, Bennie’s Pride, 16-1 Colonel Rayburn, Never Compromise, 20-1 What Odds, Satco Express, 25-1 bar.

Harbour Pilot, gallant third to Best Mate in the totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup, has received the green light for the Punchestown Heineken Gold Cup on April 28.

Noel Meade’s horse bypassed Aintree in favour of a crack at this prestigious event and the Castletown handler could not be happier with his charge.

“Harbour Pilot will relish the current soft ground at the track and is in very good form,” he said.

Most of the Punchestown festival ground has been rested over the last year and 60mm of rain has fallen at the track since March 10, compared with only 9mm for the same period last year.

Other high-profile stars set to run include Hardy Eustace, who will contest the Emo Oil Champion Hurdle along with Rooster Booster, Iris’s Gift, who is due to line up for the Ballymore Properties Champion Stayers’ Hurdle, and Moscow Flyer, whose target is the Champion Chase.

Meanwhile, Amberleigh House was one of 54 horses left in at the forfeit stage for the Betfred Gold Cup yesterday.

Ginger McCain’s chaser is in the frame for the £250,000 bonus the sponsors will pay to any horse who wins the National and the Sandown race.

Should he line up on Saturday, April 24, then the 12-year-old will be out to improve on Red Rum’s sole attempt at the race in 1975, when it was known as the Whitbread Gold Cup.

After finishing second to Rag Trade in the 1976 Grand National, the McCain-trained Red Rum, who won a record three Aintree marathons, was fifth under top weight behind Otter Way.

Betfred quote 25-1 against Amberleigh House achieving the double.

Other notable horses still engaged in the £150,000 handicap chase include Royal & SunAlliance Chase winner Rule Supreme, Jonjo O’Neill’s Keen Leader, and Grand National third Lord Atterbury, who is the 10-1 ante-post favourite.

Willie Mullins, trainer of Rule Supreme, said: “We are very much looking forward to having our first runner at Sandown Park.

“Rule Supreme has a nice weight and we’re hoping for a bit of luck on the day.”

Sandown Park’s clerk of the course Andrew Cooper is looking for good going.

He said: “We currently have good jumping ground following recent showers and selective watering. We will aim for good ground on the day.”

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