Irish trainers have a good recent record in the Aintree Grand National, winning it six times since 1999, and the Irish challenge was strengthened over the weekend with good performances from both Seabass (IRE) and Prince De Beauchene. Seabass has made giant strides this season and Ted Walsh’s gelding is now unbeaten in his last seven runs following his gutsy victory in the Grade 2 Paddypower.com Chase at Naas on Sunday. Ridden by his son Ruby, Seabass was running over an inadequate two miles but he still overcame that disadvantage to beat Zaarito by a length. The winning trainer knows how to win the Aintree spectacular having won it with Papillon in 2000 and he commented; “He was a bit out of his comfort zone coming to the last at the pace they were going so it was a gutsy effort to win despite that mistake. You’d think he’d be a good type for Aintree but that race is a law onto itself. The most important thing with him is for him to stay sound.” Seabass was bred by John Costigan and races for the Gunners Syndicate. He is by former Coolmore stallion Turtle Island out of the winning Moscow Society mare Muscovy Duck.
Willie Mullins has also tasted glory at Aintree with Hedgehunter in 2005 and his Prince De Beauchene was promoted to favourite for this years race following his authoritative win in the Grade 3 Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse on Saturday. Having only his second start for Mullins he beat Black Apalachi (runner up at Aintree in 2010) by six lengths prompting the trainer to comment; “He showed a nice bit of improvement from Navan and I’d imagine he will go on to Aintree now for the National. He did everything nicely today and I hope there will be more improvement to come from him.” Prince De Beauchene is owned by Graham & Andrea Wylie who also have a leading candidate On His Own (IRE) with Willie Mullins and their amazing strike rate since sending horses to Ireland continued when Felix Yonger (IRE) won the Grade 2 Paddypower.com Novice Hurdle. This son of Oscar actually began his racing career with Tony Mullins, finishing second in a bumper in Leopardstown before being sold to the Wylies to continue his career with Howard Johnson. Upon Johnson’s retirement he was one of a number of horses Wylie decided to send to Willie Mullins and I imagine it’s a decision he doesn’t regret. His four individual runners have won seven times from just ten starts for prize-money of £165,000. Not too many owners operate at a 70% win strike rate and with the calibre of horses he currently has he can look forward to many more exciting days at the track.