By James Stevens
Trainer Ciaran Murphy rated the chances of his Randox Grand National contender Enjoy D'Allen so highly he recommended JP McManus should purchase him.
With one of jump racing's most famous owners now on board, Murphy's runner is as short as 12-1 to give the trainer a breakthrough success in just his second season, and Murphy has created a custom practice fence to ensure Enjoy D'Allen is spot on for the April 9 contest.
Murphy understands the attributes required in a National horse from his former role at Gigginstown House Stud, where he was involved in pre-training of subsequent winners Tiger Roll and Rule The World.
The trainer, based in County Westmeath, sees plenty of the desired qualities in last year's Irish National third and is delighted that Enjoy D'Allen joined an enviable McManus Grand National roster last month, which also features leading fancy Any Second Now and defending champion Minella Times.
Murphy said: "The horse was always for sale. I took the initiative and made the call to Frank [Berry, McManus' racing manager] and once I mentioned it to him he said the horse had been on their radar and that they had an interest in him. We're a small yard with no big marker, so I'm trying to make things happen for ourselves.
"You have to put your neck on the line. It's hard to see into the future but we've always thought this horse was going to be made for Aintree, he's a good stayer and a great jumper who will love the hustle and bustle of a big race.
"I think for a National you need that type of a horse and it's lovely to be able to recommend a horse like that to Mr McManus."
Regular jockey and recent Midlands' National-winning rider Conor Orr is likely to retain the ride and his mount should be well prepared for the National fences when he schools over a purpose-built one prepared specifically with Aintree in mind.
The schooling fence is an example of Murphy's former skills in the carpentry trade and his enjoyment of taking a hands-on approach, having also built stables, a walker and a lunge ring at his Charlestown Racing base.
"I'm a carpenter by trade, I built my house six years ago but I don't have time for that now," he said. "It's a lovely skill to have, we've been putting up the facilities here. If you don't have time to do them, at least you know how they should be done.
"This is another challenge but we'll build a nice straightforward fence, nothing too difficult but just so he gets a look at the greenery. If he goes down and jumps that a couple of times and does it well that'd be the height of it."