Coral Scottish Grand National 4m Ayr Saturday
Our selection, The Last Samurai, in last week’s Aintree spectacular, gave us a great run for our money, and who knows what might have happened if the course hadn’t received that race day soaking. Unfortunately he is never going to be so well treated again, so perhaps that was his chance. Hopefully the £211,000 prize for the runner up will have offered connections some consolation, as it is probably more than double, what the winner of Saturday’s contest can expect to bank. It is still a prize very well worth winning, and could prove of great significance in the dual for the trainers title between Messrs Nicholls and Mullins, who both field runners with promising credentials.
Nicholls is mob handed, and the two of his that catch the eye are the 7yo Vicente, and the 9yo Benvolio. Vicente ran a decent race in the 4m National Hunt Chase at the Festival, finishing a running on 5th, despite being badly hampered by a loose horse three from home. As the runner up, Native River won a Grade1 at Aintree last week the form looks very solid, and considering Vicente beat the subsequent Festival winner, Un Temp Pour Tout last November by 2 3/4L giving him 8lbs, he looks really well treated here off a mark of 146, giving him a nice racing weight of 10st13lbs. He is a prominent racer which is nearly a prerequisite here as the winner of The Scottish Grand National rarely comes from far off the pace. He likes decent ground, has a pedigree that shouts stamina and comes from the yard that trained the 1997 winner, Belmont King. One for the shortlist!
Benvolio is also bred for the trip and showed his wellbeing two weeks ago when cantering up by 11L at Newbury from Ned Stark, with another of Saturday’s opponents, Tour Des Champs, a further 4 1/2L back in 4th. He is up 9lbs for Saturday but did look an improved animal on the good ground at Newbury and given similar conditions at the week end could be involved.
Willie Mullins relies on the 8yo, Measure Of My Dreams, who finished 3rd in the National Hunt Chase, 7 3/4L in front of Vicente, and given testing ground would be of interest. He looked very one paced on Cheltenham’s good/soft surface last time, and this Grade2 winner, on heavy ground at Navan, probably needs the heavens to open.
James Moffatt’s 10yo Highland Lodge, put up a fine staying performance when winning the Beecher Chase over the National fences (Aintree3m2f soft) last December, and as a result was well fancied for last weeks big one, but unfortunately failed to make the cut. Reported to be in fine fettle, he is another who races up with the pace,has just 10st4lbs in the plate, and with stamina virtually assured has to be of interest. Consolation may await!
Winner of the 2014 Grand National off a mark of 143, the 13yo Pineau De Re showed there was still life left in the old dog when winning at Carlisle in December, and ran well enough last time, finishing seventh (3m2f Newbury March 5th). His shrewd trainer Dr Richard Newland reports him to be in the best form since his Aintree triumph, so off a mark of 137 (10st4lbs) is worth a second look.
Newland also runs the 10yo prolific winner, Royale Knight ( has won seven times over fences) and he has come in for strong support in the market. A winner over 4m at Kelso, he ran a fine race over 3m5f at Sedgefield last October, winning off a mark 136. Subsequently raced over inadequate trips he gets into Saturday’s contest off a lenient looking 142 giving him 10st9lbs to carry. Given decent ground of definite interest!
Scottish trained Millborough, the winner of the 2015 4m 1/2f Eider Chase off a mark of 134 looks as if he has been laid out for this. The 10yo had the ideal prep when finishing 2nd to Firth of Clyde at Carlisle four weeks ago, and gets into this on a mark only 3lbs higher than for his Eider victory. Indeed when we take the very useful Graham Watters 3lbs claim into account he will have the feather weight of 10st1lb in the plate.
Will he keep the prize north of the border?
Colin Tizzard who is having such a wonderful season runs the 10yo Masters Hill, and running off a mark of 140 is another who seems to have been treated leniently. He went down by a head to another of Saturday’s opponents, Good To Know, when apprentice ridden over 3m 4 1/2f at Right handed Taunton five weeks ago. He would surely have won but for continually jumping left and making a mistake two out. He will be much better suited by the left handed course at the weekend and it isn’t hard to imagine the already replete Tizzard pudding being further egg’d.
Selection : Vicente.
E.W. : Royale Knight.