McManus has stronghand in Irish National

JP McManus has a strong hand in the Ladbrokes Irish Grand National with ante-post 8-1 favourite Groody Hill set to be joined by his Cheltenham Festival winner Alfie Sherrin and Pertemps Final runner-up Catch Me at Fairyhouse on April 9.

Groody Hill, who will carry 10st 9lb, is trained by Christy Roche and won three in a row before Christmas, finishing up with a third-place finish in the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown.

The 69 entries include last year’s winner Organisedconfusion and top-weight Seabass, who are both likely to run in the Aintree equivalent. McManus last landed the race in 2007 with Butler’s Cabin.

Of Alfie Sherrin and Catch Me, racing manager Frank Berry said: “Both of them have come out of their respective races well and providing we get some rain they are likely to head to Fairyhouse.”

Gigginstown House Stud, the other powerhouse owners in Irish National Hunt racing, are also likely to be well represented.

Racing manager Eddie O’Leary said: “We will hopefully run Magnanimity, who has really come back to himself recently, and Start Me Up is also another likely runner as are Gates of Rome and Crash, who both have possible Limerick engagements first.”

Four Commanders is another in the mix for the team.

Cadogan would be bidding to give Jim Dreaper a fourth win in the race, having previously won it with Colebridge in 1974 and Brown Lad in 1975, 76 and 78.

“We have had some leg trouble with him but we are delighted to have won some races with him over the years,” said Dreaper.

“The National has such a great prize on offer that we had to go for it, but he will obviously be very ground dependent.”

Noel Meade has said at this stage it is likely Paul Carberry will ride Cross Appeal (10st 7lb).

“He is in really good form, we don’t mind if the rain stays away for him or Fisher Bridge, but we would only run Medical Card if the ground came up on the soft side,” Meade explained.

Other British entries are Cappa Bleu, Giles Cross, Le Beau Bai, Aigle d’Or, Midnight Haze and Master Overseer.

Noel O’Brien, Irish senior National Hunt handicapper, said: “Of the 69 entries, 64 of them are in the handicap and this will make for a very competitive renewal of the contest. It has attracted the top handicappers in the UK and Ireland, so it is sure to be a very exciting race.”

The highlight of Sunday’s card at the Fairyhouse festival is the Powers Gold Cup, which has attracted the promising novices Flemenstar and Rathlin, while Nicky Henderson’s Cheltenham winner Bellvano has been entered in Tuesday’s Dan Moore Memorial Chase.

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