Irish National the target for Lion Na Bearnai

Tom Gibney is hoping a campaign centered around a crack at the Boylesports Irish Grand National will reap benefits for 2012 hero Lion Na Bearnai.

Irish National the target for Lion Na Bearnai

Aintree was the main focus for the gelding last term but he struggled to make an impact behind Pineau De Re and was pulled up four from home.

Considering his exertions there, connections were delighted with his run at Fairyhouse just 16 days later when he faded in the closing stages to finish 11th having held every chance turning for home.

Now a 13-year-old, Lion Na Bearnai ran a cracker at the scene of his greatest triumph when narrowly held in the BoylesIGN Rated Chase in January and Gibney is hoping he can shine once again at Fairyhouse.

“He’s in great order and I couldn’t be happier with the weight he’s got,” said Gibney.

“I was very happy with his two runs this year, particularly at Fairyhouse. That was a better race than when he won it last year. He also ran well at Navan but he wouldn’t be the same over hurdles.

“We decided to target the Irish National this year rather than run in it as an after-thought.

“It wasn’t even on the radar last year. We wanted a crack at Aintree and we’re not sorry we did.

“He needs a few weeks between his races though and we couldn’t believe it when he was still there turning in last year.

“He’s had a better preparation for it this time.”

Meanwhile Last year’s Foxhunter hero Tammys Hill is reported in fine fettle ahead of a bid for the Boylesports Irish Grand National on Easter Monday.

Liam Lennon’s charge was set to run at Fairyhouse last year but was pulled out of the contest lame on the morning of the race.

Connections decided not to pursue the hunter chase route this season and things started well with a handicap hurdle success at Cork in October.

He struggled in Grade One company behind Road To Riches at Down Royal subsequently and has not been seen out since finishing fifth over timber at Navan in December.

“He’s in really good form and we’re very happy with him now,” said Lennon.

“He did go through a bit of a bad time and had wee niggly problems, but we worked him the other morning and were very happy.

“He’ll go to Fairyhouse a fresh horse and with the weights looking likely to go up, he’ll have a nice weight.

“Hopefully we can get him back to what he was and in the same form as Cheltenham.

“It was disappointing that he missed the race last year and at 11am that morning he was still in it, but that’s in the past now and it might even be a blessing in disguise.”

Boylesports Hurdle winner Katie T will have a run on the Flat at Leopardstown before a possible clash with Annie Power at the Punchestown Festival.

Kevin Prendergast’s mare has not been sighted since turning what is usually one of the most competitive handicaps of the Irish season into something of a procession.

Having had a break, Prendergast is now building her fitness back up, but the veteran trainer recognises she will face a tough task against Willie Mullins’ mare.

“She’ll go for a handicap on the Flat first of all and then go to Punchestown,” said the Friarstown handler.

“We’ll run her in the mares’ Grade One at Punchestown, although she might be up against it if Annie Power runs.

“It looked like she (Annie Power) would have won easily at Cheltenham and she’d have probably won the Champion Hurdle, too.

“We gave Katie T a break after she won the Boylesports but we’re building her back up now.

“The run on the Flat at Leopardstown should help to put her spot-on for Punchestown.

“She’s Grade One-placed and has won a Grade Three, so she’s won a few big pots.”

Bitofapuzzle is being prepared for a trip to Fairyhouse next month after coming close to providing Harry Fry with a first Cheltenham Festival success last week.

The seven-year-old was beaten just half a length into third in the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle at Prestbury Park and is now heading for the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Novice Hurdle Championship Final over the Easter period.

With Rock On Ruby geared up for Aintree after having missed Cheltenham, Fry is hoping for a strong end to the campaign.

He said: “Bitofapuzzle is buzzing at the moment and will go for Grade One mares’ race at Fairyhouse.”

Fry also had news of Activial, third in the Coral Cup, and Henryville, who finished fourth in the Pertemps Network Final.

The Dorset handler said: “Activial will go to France for a Grade Two event at the end of April.

“Handicaps look to be out of the question for Henryville and it is now whether we take on the big boys in a Grade One three-mile race at Aintree or go for a Listed two-mile-six-furlong race at Sandown on the last day of the season.

“That may make more sense.”

Rebel Rebellion looks to have earned himself a tilt at the Crabbie’s Grand National after success at Newbury on Saturday.

The 10-year-old clinched his second prize of the season for champion trainer Paul Nicholls in the hands of talented conditional Jack Sherwood.

Nicholls had been considering the Topham Chase over the famous Aintree fences next month, but he is instead is set to go for Grand National glory.

“I thought he was exposed and had plenty to do at the weights, but he won really well,” the Ditcheat handler told Racing UK.

“Jack rides him really well and gets on well with him. It’s a shame as because Jack’s only ridden five winners over fences, he can’t ride him in the Topham, so we’ll probably run him in the National.

“He’s run well over three miles, he’s bred to stay. I suspect Ryan Mahon will probably ride him.”

Eddie Lynam feels Sole Power is back on song ahead of the Al Quoz Sprint at Meydan next Saturday.

The multiple Group One-winning sprinter has yet to taste victory in Dubai and finished down the field on his return to action at the track earlier this month.

Lynam said: “I was a bit disappointed with his last run. He’s in good heart now though and I’m very hopeful of a good run.

“I’m glad to have Richard Hughes and he’ll have an English campaign this year.”

More in this section

Sport
Newsletter

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up
IE_logo_newsletters

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox