Ruby Walsh: Aramax looks the part in Kerry National


Late Tuesday afternoon, Fairyhill Run was the second favourite for Wednesday’s Kerry National. As you read this, she will either be a favourite or soon to be a non-runner because she is only the first reserve for the feature race of Listowel’s Harvest Festival, which was much to the annoyance of her trainer John Ryan.

John has been having the season of his life, with over 30 winners trained, five of which were from 16 runners in the last fortnight for a 31% strike rate. But his anger at Fairyhill Run missing the initial cut for the race was slightly wide of the mark.

Of course, it is disappointing, but that’s the nature of big-prizemoney handicaps.

Only 18 can run in this one, and somebody misses out in almost every big-field handicap. It happened to True Self in last year’s Melbourne Cup – and that with her already in Australia.

Should Fairyhill Run not get in, she can always try again in next month’s Munster equivalent. She would be a player, of that there is little doubt, but her participation is a doubt and will be until mid-morning, giving her every chance of getting a run, unlike the ridiculous rules surrounding the Galway Plate and Hurdle.

For those two races, the reserves can’t get in from lunchtime the day before, so punters know the line-up 24 hours in advance.

Yet, for Listowel, that is not the case. So, either punters don’t need as much time to assess the Kerry National, or Galway is more important. I don’t know, and it has me confused, but John Ryan should count his lucky stars if he does get in Wednesday morning because it’s not a chance owners, trainers, jockeys or stable staff get for the Galway Plate or Hurdle.

Champions Weekend at Leopardstown had similar rules for the benefit of the world pool and no other reason.

Of those that do line up, Aramax would be my pick of JP McManus’ seven and Gordon Elliott’s quartet. This former Cheltenham Festival winner over hurdles has taken his time to get to grips with jumping fences. He beat Port Stanley at Fairyhouse on his third run over the larger obstacles, but his jumping has always been deliberate.

However, I thought at Galway, on his last start, he was much more fluent, and the experience he has gained in three two-mile handicaps looks to be standing to him. This three-mile trip looks ideal for him, and Mark Walsh may well have chosen correctly from the seven he could have ridden.

Gordon also has Conflated and Farclas lining up off the back of summer breaks and The Big Lense, who, last time out at Galway, couldn’t carry his seven-pound penalty for winning the Midlands National in early July.

Home By The Lee blew out in the Galway Plate but, in the first-time cheekpieces, could well be the best of Joseph O’Brien’s five runners. He was always too far back in the Irish National but did threaten to get involved turning in before the three miles five-furlong trip caught him. With the Galway blow under his belt, this second-season novice has an each-way chance.

Paul Townend, as usual, also had a choice of a few and has opted for Annamix, a horse I fancied in the Galway Plate but one that never rose a gallop. At Galway, he disappointed twice in the one week, and, for me, the jury is out on him.

Koshari could run okay if his jumping holds up for Brian Hayes. Bramha Bull will need a little luck on that front too, but a good start and one or two good jumps early on will help his confidence, and stamina is definitely his forte.

Willie has better chances elsewhere on the card, though, starting with Farout at 2.45. He has been excellent on his last two starts and should bring the hat-trick Wednesday afternoon.

Robinnia looked unlucky at Galway when she fell at the last, looking to hold every chance, but Magic Daze will be a strong opponent. Henry De Bromhead’s front-running daughter of Doyen should not be dismissed, and I expect Paul Townend to keep a close eye on her from flag fall.

Glan at 2.10, The Bosses Oscar at 5.00, and Glenglass at 5.35 will all be very short odds to keep Gordon Elliott’s fine run going. Possibly putting the card’s four short prices together might be the easiest way of having a good afternoon.