The Harvest Festival at Listowel remains one of the most important weeks in the Irish racing calendar. The seven-day meeting takes place each September and like all major Irish racing festivals, it draws huge crowds from far and wide. The Kerry National Handicap Chase is the biggest race of the week and is run on Wednesday afternoon.
Traditionally it was the meeting where the farmers of Ireland came to spend and gamble the money they made from the harvest but it has since grown into something much larger and more wide-ranging than that.
Let’s take a look at where the locals might be placing their money this week in the Kerry National.
Coneygree, who had been expected to start his season at Listowel on Wednesday, will not run in the €175,000 handicap because connections are worried the ground will be too testing. With Coneygree’s defection from the race the most likely favourite now will be Shaneshill.
Shaneshill is one of eleven horses that ran in the TheTote.com Galway Plate earlier in the summer and are engaged in the Kerry National. Shaneshill is set to carry 11st 4lbs and is one of five horses entered by Willie Mullins as he bids for a third win in the race and his first since Bothar Na won in 2006. Mullins could also run Arbre De Vie on 10st 10lbs. He finished sixth in the Galway Plate and then beat Shaneshill to win the At The Races Chase on the final day of the Galway Festival.
Speaking last week Mullins said: "It will be an interesting race. I'd give Shaneshill and Arbre De Vie realistic chances on what they have done and hopefully The Crafty Butcher might get in too."
Gigginstown’s A Toi Phil is in with a realistic each-way chance in a typically competitive renewal of the race. Fourth in the Galway Plate, has been handed 10st 11lbs.
A novice last season, he won two Grade 2’s - at Punchestown and Navan - and he has valuable handicap experience after getting up late for Jack Kennedy to win the Leopardstown Chase back in January.
A Toi Phil jumps well and has experience of the hustle and bustle of handicaps. The trip is a slight question mark however but he has been on the premises in his previous three mile races.
The JP McManus-owned and Joseph O'Brien-trained mare Slowmotion is inevitably going to have plenty of supporters in the betting due to her connections.
Slowmotion's record over fences thus far is three wins, two places and a third from seven starts and she runs off an attractive weight of 10st 5lbs.
She looks to be a runner to keep onside with in this feature race.
Kylecrue won the Kerry Group Handicap Chase for the third year in-a-row at Listowel on Sunday, making all under David Mullins for trainer John Ryan.
"He'll take some beating on Wednesday (Kerry National) if he gets in! He has run 4 times over fences here and has never been beaten" said a jubilant John Ryan.
Gordon Elliot has highlighted Potters Point as being his best chance of landing the Kerry National on Wednesday.
Elliott said: “Potters Point looks the one for me and if he jumps and stays I think he could run a very big race.
"I know it wasn't much of race he won last time at Tramore, but he did it nicely and, for a horse who's had his fair share of problems, he looks to be in a good place right now.
“He's had a wind operation and he seems to have turned a corner since then. He looks really well and I would say he’s probably our main hope at this stage.”
Of his other entries Elliot said: “A Toi Phil looks like he could be the classier horse for us in the race and obviously Lord Scoundrel would have a chance, but as Coneygree isn't running now they look like they're at the wrong end of the handicap.
“Mountain King is also in the race and I'll definitely run at least three if I can. I'm not sure if I've a Wrath Of Titans this year but hopefully one of ours can go close.”
Henry de Bromhead has also made several entries including Riviera Sun which beat the Tony Martin-trained Phil’s Magic, winner of the Midlands National at Kilbeggan in July, to win the Guinness Galway Blazers Handicap Chase last month.
The pair have been allotted 9st 1lb and 9st 2lbs respectively. De Bromhead also has Stellar Notion on 10st 2lbs, Heron Heights on 9st 11lbs and On Fiddlers Green with 9st 10lbs.
Gold Cup winning trainer Jessica Harrington could run Sandymount Duke (11st 3lbs), fifth in the Galway Plate, while Charles Byrnes, a winner with Alfa Beat in 2010, has both his Galway Plate seventh Shanpallas (10st) and the novice Sea Light (9st 2lbs) entered at this stage.
Andrew Shaw, Irish National Hunt Handicapper, said: “Last year’s Guinness Kerry National was very strong and this year’s renewal looks better again. The race is going up in stature. The quality of this year’s race is emphasised by the fact that the last five winners were rated 133 or less and it looks like a rating of 133 will not be sufficient to get a run this time.”
Early ante-post thoughts
Most of the top Irish National Hunt races these days tend to be won by dominant trainers such as Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliot.
On this occasion the coin flip has landed on the Elliot side and the fancy is Potters Point.