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PAT HEALY: This week Pat turns his focus to the upcoming Irish National on Easter Monday, and the prospect of Envoi Allen v Monkfish at Punchestown.

The Flat is back

It’s great that the Flat season is back and the major talking point so far has been the form of the Aidan O’Brien stable. He’s operating at a 56% strike rate which is phenomenal and his horses seem to be well ahead of where they usually are at this stage of the season. That of course bodes very well with the Classics on the horizon and is shown by the big move on Santa Barbara (pictured below) for the 1000 Guineas, there is plenty of confidence behind the yard this year.

Ballydoyle is very much an international business these days. They’ve already had runners in Dubai and they’ll go on to target all of the big races around the world in countries like Australia, America and Hong Kong. Based on his start to the season, it looks pretty likely Aidan will have a big say in plenty of them!

Irish National

The Irish National is one of Ireland’s flagship races. It has the tradition and roll of honour to mean it is held in that regard and although it’s going to be different this year, it still has a great history. People over here will know it takes place on Easter Monday and given its stature and heritage, they’ll take a look at the card and pick their winner. It’s a huge race for the country as well as the Irish people and for anyone who has even a slight interest in racing, they’ll know when it’s on and will be tuning in to watch the action unfold.

Monkfish v Envoi Allen

If the reports are to be believed we could be set for an absolute classic at Punchestown in a few weeks as Envoi Allen and Monkfish could be set to take each other on.

Envoi Allen will come into it off the back of that unfortunate fall at Cheltenham which was hugely disappointing for all concerned. From hearing a few interviews in the aftermath as well as a few video clips, he was clearly quite lit up and a bit more on his toes than usual. It was certainly out of character based on what we’d all seen previously and to hear he got very warm beforehand was again very uncharacteristic. A change of home before his biggest test can’t have been easy and let’s not forget he’s a novice, so he can most certainly be forgiven for that. Henry de Bromhead is a top top trainer and it will be hugely exciting to see him out again. I still think he’s the hottest property on the circuit.

However, for many that might be Monkfish and he did get the job done at Cheltenham, albeit not as convincingly as many thought he would. People said he was watching the camera on the inside the whole way round and wasn’t concentrating on his fences which is why he didn’t jump as well as we know he can. He got the job done, though, and as we know, that’s a sign of a good horse.

If they both do line up against each other it will be a race to savour, that’s for sure.