Coral Scottish Grand National Handicap Chase 4 Miles Ayr Saturday

The history of the race goes all the way back to 1858, but the contest didn’t reach it’s present venue until 1966 when it was run over Saturday’s course and distance for the first time. Always run with a big field, racing with the choke out, experience clearly counts, and only one 6yo, (Earth Summit 1994, and he had already raced ten times over fences) has managed to win. Age has been no bar to success with twelve animals older than nine coming home in front, and indeed the last decade has seen three 11yo’s collecting first prize, Hello Bud 2009, Merigo 2012, and Wayward Prince in 2015.

Earth Summits’ trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies, is seeking an unprecedented fourth win in the contest, and at the time of writing has three entries, Ballyoptic, the veteran Benbens and last year’s runner up, Cogry, and despite the claims of the latter, the 8yo Ballyoptic looks his best chance. He has only raced five times over fences but has won two of them including a Wetherby Grade2 in February from Saturday’s opponent, Vintage Clouds, and he ran well enough last time to finish 4th in The RSA to Presenting Percy at The Cheltenham Festival. His ability to last out Saturday’s marathon trip has to be taken on trust but he is stoutly bred, (by Old Vic out of an Un Desperado mare) and it’s worth remembering that he had the class and stamina to beat Bellshill in a 3m1f Grade1 Hurdle at Aintree two years ago.

Last year’s winner, the Paul Nicholls trained Vicente, was the first animal to bag two consecutive Scottish Grand Nationals since Jimmy Fitzgerald’s Androma came home in front for the second time in 1985, and having had a fairly easy time of it this term, must have decent prospects of bringing up the hat trick. vicenteHe looked as good as ever when just losing out to Perfect Candidate on his seasonal reappearance in November, and then twice avoided a tough race, when unseating in The Welsh National in January on attritional ground, and again, racing on very heavy ground, was pulled up at the Cheltenham Festival behind Coo Star Sivola. He has a higher mark to defy this time but remember last year’s success was achieved a fortnight after falling in the Aintree edition, and with the drying ground very much in the 9yo’s favour, he has to enter calculations.

The Sue Smith trained 8yo, Vintage Clouds, meets his Wetherby conqueror, Ballyoptic, on 5lbs better terms for that 2 3/4L beating and he subsequently ran a fine race to finish 3rd to Coo Star Sivola at The Cheltenham Festival. He stayed on dourly in The Welsh National (3m5f Heavy) so could find Saturday’s trip right up his street, and with 10-12 on his back at the weekend, provides owner, Trevor Hemmings, with a useful looking second string to his bow, (also owns Vicente).

The Neil Mulholland (pictured) trained Doing Fine, has had a nice easy time of it this winter and having avoided the dreadful Winter ground will strip a fresh animal at the weekend. The 10yo hasn’t been seen since finishing 4th to Benbens over 3m5f at Sandown in December and meets that rival on 10lbs better terms on Saturday. neil mulholland ayrHe has never won over Saturday’s trip but looked an out and out stayer when beating Ugolin De Beaumont to whom he was conceding 18lbs by 6L over 3m4f at Cheltenham last April. Doing Fine, who will enjoy Saturday’s drying conditions and can go well after a break, has only been with his talented trainer for 18 months, and as the yard is firing in the winners at present, is definitely one to note with his nice racing weight of 10-6.

Having won The Irish, and Aintree Grand Nationals this Spring, the County Meath Maestro, Gordon Elliott seeks an unprecedented third with Fagan and Folsom Blue. The latter, an 11yo must have had a very hard race when finishing 4th to his stable companion, General Principle, in that controversial Irish National run on ground that many deemed unraceable, so perhaps his best chance lies with the 8yo Fagan. The ex pointer, won three of his five races in that discipline before joining the Elliott Academy where he won his first two bumpers and two of his four Hurdle races. His future always lay over fences and he duly won the second of his four chases, winning a Perth Novices Chase by 95L. Only 2nd in his last two, it was in pretty good company, finishing runner up to Ballyandy last September and Black Corton last October. Saturday’s task looks a huge one making his handicap debut in such a competitive heat off a stiff enough looking mark, but coming from this yard I suppose anything is possible.

The David Pipe trained, Daklondike as a 6yo will be trying to emulate Earth Summit, the only horse of that age to succeed in the whole history of the Scottish National, and he will be attempting to do it with far less experience over fences than the subsequent winner of the Aintree Grand National had at the time. He has only raced five times over the larger obstacles, but has won three of the last four, and looked a staying chaser of some potential when winning the 3m2f Mandarin Chase at Newbury last time. He finished with a real flourish to put that good yardstick, Grand Vision, in his place, and looked as if there was plenty more to come over staying distances. However that was on heavy ground and it remains to be seen how he will cope with the likely faster ground on Saturday. In his favour, the elder Pipe has brought the trophy back to Pond House on two occasions so they certainly know what is required down Nicholashayne way.

Selection : Doing Fine

E.W. : Vintage Clouds and Daklondike

John Gray

Coral Scottish Grand National Tips

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.

Horse Betting Tips Scottish Grand National Ayr Saturday

Sam Winner

Paul Nicholl’s Sam Winner looked a likely type for this when beating The Druids Nephew and Saint Are over 3m31/2f at Cheltenham in November, and confirmed He was on the up, when beating the classy pair Medermit and Ma Filleule at Aintree four weeks later.

Saint Are, our e.w. Suggestion in last weeks National, ran a great race to finish 2nd at the rewarding odds of 25/1, so let’s hope we can point you in the right direction in this weekend’s Scottish equivalent.

Having won the race once and been placed three times from only ten runners, over the last decade, anything proud Scot Alan King enters must be treated with respect. His representative on Saturday is the 7yo Beneficial gelding Sego Success, who on only his second attempt over the larger obstacles, beat the well backed favourite, If In Doubt (won next time out) over 3m1f at Wetherby last November. He followed up six weeks later with quite a fetching performance when winning a Cl1 listed novices chase over Warwick’s demanding course. Strongly fancied for the four mile National hunt chase at the Cheltenham festival, He got seriously knocked about, and his jumping suffered, so it was to his credit that he was still in contention until between the last two fences. He faded to finish 5th 17l behind the runner up, and favourite for Saturday’s contest, Broadway Buffalo. Given a more trouble free passage at the weekend, the very progressive Sego Success, with his nice racing weight of 10st5lbs must have a good chance of being involved at the business end on Saturday.

Following his fine run at the Festival Broadway Buffalo’s chance has to be respected, but he has had a busy season and perhaps Saturday’s contest is something of an afterthought. He also does seem to reserve his best for an easy surface, so conditions are unlikely to to suit.

Paul Nicholl’s Sam Winner looked a likely type for this when beating The Druids Nephew and Saint Are over 3m31/2f at Cheltenham in November, and confirmed He was on the up, when beating the classy pair Medermit and Ma Filleule at Aintree four weeks later. Three weeks after that He again ran another good race when finishing 3rd in the Gd1 Lexus chase at Leopardstown. He reappeared 14 weeks later in the Gold Cup where he was pulled up before the third last, when he may well have needed the race. He remains the class act in Saturday’s contest, will not be inconvenienced by good ground, and must have serious prospects of emulating Grey Abbey in 2004, the last animal to hump 11st12lbs to victory.

Jonjo O’Neill’s Catching On, in March, won a 3m61/2f Exeter handicap very easily off a mark of124, and eleven days later was backed in to 5/2 fav to win the Midland Grand National at Uttoxeter off 130. The race may well have come too soon as he never got into his stride, and fell at the 8th. Now racing off a mark of 139 He doesn’t look particularly well handicapped, but with his attractive weight of 10st3lbs and coming from this yard, He is difficult to dismiss.

Last years runner up Trustan Times, has had a disappointing season and as a result is 2lbs lower in the handicap than last year. His shrewd trainer used the same race (Pertemps hurdle final) at the Cheltenham Festival, as he did last year, as the horses final prep for this. While it is true that Trustan Times has been disappointing over the season, it is worth remembering that the stable was badly out out of form all winter, and it would be no great surprise to see him to the fore again with his feather weight of 10st2lbs.

Tony Martin sends Gallant Oscar over from Ireland, and this lightly raced 9yo looks nicely weighted with just 10st1lb. He ran like a stayer at the Festival, when a running on 3rd behind The Druids Nephew and Grand Gesture. He had previously finished 4th in the Thyestes Chase, in awful conditions, to the Gold Cup runner up Djakadam,so does appear to be well treated at the weekend.

Peter Bowen is represented by Al Co and Edmund Kean. Al Co won last years renewal for the stable, but having got no further than the first last week at Aintree, and being 5lbs higher than last year, perhaps the more interesting of the two is Edmund Kean. Having been pulled up in his previous two races Edmund Kean, last time, ran very promisingly at Stratford when going down by a neck to Midnight Lira off a mark of 127. Bound to be suited by the step up in distance, and despite being 3lbs wrong in the handicap, it is not impossible that he might emulate Joes Edge, who won from three pounds out of the handicap in 2004.

Selection: Sam Winner

E.W. : Gallant Oscar

Green Flag can win Scottish National

Age or weight seems to have no strong relevance when trying to unearth the winner of Scotland’s favourite National Hunt race, although it is worth bearing in mind that 28 of the last 40 winners have carried 10st 7lbs or less. We have also seen Grey Abbey (2004) carry 11/12lbs and last year the novice Godsmejudge 11st 3lbs in the last 10 years. In the same period we have seen three Joes Edge (2005) Hot Weld (2007) and Iris de Balme (2008) win from out of the handicap. 

ImageOne very strong trend however, is the necessity to have an animal that either races up with the pace or just off it as hold up horses do not succeed. 

So what of this years race? As back to back winners (Barona 75,76 Androma 84,85) are not unknown last years winner the Alan King trained Godsmejudge is worth considering. Generally disappointing in his three runs since last years victory he is not at the time of writing a certain runner. However, to quote his Scottish born trainer “I have left him in because he is coming back to himself and if he works well mid-week I will let him take his chance”. He is not harshly treated with only 6lbs more than last year and if turning up is definitely one for the short list. 

The current favourite Lucinda Russell’s Green Flag seems a likely candidate. By Milan out of an Un Desperado mare his pedigree is all about stamina and this has been borne out by his racecourse performances, particularly in his last race. At last months Cheltenham Festival he stayed on stoutly up the hill to finish a respectable fourth to Holywell, Ma Filleule and The Package. As the first two went on to impressive victories at Aintree the form is top drawer. As he races just off the pace another for the short list.

The Tim Easterby trainer Trustan Times ran a fine race in the Pertemps Final, a hurdle race at the Cheltenham Festival 3mls. Here he was a running on fourth a nse and two necks behind the classy Fingal Bay. Perhaps, even more interesting he was only a neck behind last weeks Grand National hero (who we advised e/w ) Pineau de Re to whom he was conceding 4lbs. Here he tracked the leaders and with his chase mark 13lbs lower than his hurdles rating he must be considered. 

For a runner from the Paul Nichols stable Pougnach is a massive price for a horse who stays so well. Last time giving 23lbs to the winner over 3m5f at Taunton he was a very creditable staying on the moment he is 2lbs out of the handicap but in the event of Tidal Bay defecting the weights would rise 19lbs giving him a nice racing weight. 

If Tidal Bay defects another interesting contender would be the Jonjo O’Neill trained Storm Survivor. By Milan out of a Presenting mare he is bred to stay all day and will relish the 4m 1/2f trip. He ran well last time at Doncaster where he was 5L second to Night in Milan 3m 2f in a cl 2 handicap. However, he is usually held up in his races and for that reason is passed over.

Edmund Kean from the David Pipe stable is worth a second look. Disappointing in his last race at Newcastle in February where he was attempting to complete a hat-trick of wins over fences he got bogged down in the very heavy ground. Prior to that he seemed a progressive young chaser who raced prominently and given that he will be one of the freshest in the field should be considered. 

Harry Fry has a strong candidate in the ex pointer Mendip Express. Winner of three of his four chase starts under rules on the last of them, he got stuck in the mud in Newbury in February behind Smad Place and Sams Winner. Prior to that he had been very progressive and looked an out and out stayer when beating Alfie Spinner over 3m 2 1/2f at Cheltenham on New Years Day off a mark of 139 easily. He does not seem at all badly treated off his mark of 147 but as he is another hold up horse he is reluctantly passed over. 

Selection: Green Flag
E/w: Pougnach