This has been a year of some special feats in Nationals. In January through trench like ground at Chepstow the youngest jockey teamed up with the oldest horse combined to win the restaged Welsh Grand National when the 16-year-old James Bowen rode Raz De Maree to victory, the first 13-year-old horse to triumph since the war.
In the Irish Grand National four of the first five home – and the only eight to complete – were trained by Gordon Elliott or Willie Mullins. Then at Aintree, just two weeks ago, Elliot and Mullins had the 1-2 with the oldest rider in the race winning on a horse who had won the Triumph Hurdle, National Hunt Chase and Cross-Country at the Cheltenham Festival beforehand – buy tickets for Cheltenham Festival 2019.
At Ayr, all those feats would be equalled if not bettered if Paul Nicholls’ Vicente managed to win the Scottish Grand National for the third year in a row today. The nine-year-old has proven to be strongest here for the past two years, first winning it as a novice when slicing through the field to a comprehensive win, and then knuckling down to get the better of Cogry in an epic duel last year.
He ran a fantastic race on his comeback at Cheltenham Festival 2018 when just going down to Perfect Candidate with the two 17 lengths clear of the third. He went up just 4lbs for that and whilst he’s failed to complete in two starts since, he unseated before the race in the Welsh National and the ground was far too sticky for him at Cheltenham in the Ultima.
Missing the Aintree Grand National on account of the ground was probably the right call to give him some extra freshness and he clearly comes alive here in April. Off a mark just 4lbs higher than last year, he has to have every chance and his chances of making history are very valid.
Trevor Hemmings missed out on a National runner when Vicente was ruled out on account of the ground and Vintage Clouds didn’t make it into the final field as a reserve, but last year’s seventh looks a better horse now and could well give Hemmings a second National should Vicente not do so.
An early mistake in this last year when he was lucky not to unseat there and then robbed him of any early rhythm but he’s since improved his jumping hand over fist and it showed with 18 length demolition job at Aintree on his return.
He ran into a graded horse next time in the shape of Clan Des Obeaux at Haydock, finishing a respectable second on what was very testing ground, and he backed that up once again with his fourth in the Welsh National. He was then a good second to Ballyoptic at Wetherby when getting just 3 lbs (today he rated off 10-12 and Ballyoptic 11-6) and his fourth in the Ultima was a fine warm up for this.
It is tough to leave the well handicapped Fagan out of the final portfolio, and both he and Ballyoptic ought to go well, whilst Doing Fine has been crying for this trip. The Young Master is fantastically well handicapped and a danger lurking at the bottom of the weights, but a last year’s second could possibly be the best third string to the bow.
Cogry didn’t put a foot wrong when beaten a neck in this last year and he then gave a good thrashing to the very useful Singlefarmpayment on his seasonal reappearance at Cheltenham, suggesting he had a fruitful campaign ahead. However, a remarkably lacklustre showing in the Hennessy would saw an inconsistent campaign follow. It’s worth remembering that he was second in the Classic Chase to Milansbar (fifth in National) and 4 miles on good ground ought to suit him well.
Advice for Scottish Grand National 2018:
1 pt each/way Vicente (10/1 Bet365, Hills)
1 pt each/way Vintage Clouds (12/1 Bet365, 11/2 Paddy Power)
1 pt each/way Cogry (25/1 Coral, Ladbrokes)
Other Ayr Races
1.45 – 2m½f (2m110y) Scotty Brand Handicap Chase (Listed Race): The last time Foxtail Hill got a good surface he led a good field at Cheltenham all the way and then had enough to hold off the subsequent Grand Annual winner Le Prezien. The two were 11 lengths clear at the end and now following a season of unsuitably heavy ground he’s now off a mark just 1 pound higher. He’s had a tough season but if he can get out into a rhythm in front he must have every chance.
Double W’s hasn’t been at his best for a while and was pulled up here last season but he’s now 2lbs lower than he was when winning the Red Rum last season at Aintree and perhaps a break might have rejuvenated him here in which case he is very well handicapped.
Advice: No bet
2.20 – Dawn Homes Novices’ Championship Handicap Chase (Class 2) (5yo+): After two seasons over fences Barney Dwan has finally gotten the hang of chasing and this trip around here ought to suit him well following a fine fourth in the Close Brothers at Cheltenham. His career best efforts before have come on good ground before, notably his second to Presenting Percy in the Pertemps last year, so the good weather is a help.
Braqueur D’Or was one of the best jumpers of the summer (starting out last May) and carried his form through to the winter, which included a fine fourth in the Hennessy. 13 lengths ahead of him were Total Recall and Whisper, with the impressive Ascot winner just three lengths ahead. He might have been feeling the effects of such a run when he was beaten 12 lengths by Keeper Hill next time and if he’s refreshed then he’s well handicapped.
Advice: 1 pt each/way Barney Dwan (13/2 general), 1 pt each/way Braqueur D’Or (10/1 general)
2.55 – QTS Scottish Champion Hurdle (A Limited Handicap) (Grade 2) (Class 1) (4yo+): Verdana Blue was going as well, if not better, than anything in the Betfair Hurdle before she started swimming in the ground that day but back on a decent surface she ought to take all the beating. Her three runs at Ascot are some of the best form in this company and with a clear run and hopefully a good gallop she will take the beating. Claimtakingforgan was one of the best bumper horses of last season and the last time he had anything like good ground he was seen giving an easy beating to the subsequent Grade 1 second Lostintranslation at Newbury. His fifth in the Supreme Novices’ was hugely creditable given how heavy the ground was and if he’s over it then he’s well handicapped.
Advice: 1 pt each/way Vedana Blue (11/2 general)
Advised Yesterday to Members: 1 pt each/way Claimtakinforgan (16/1 BetVictor, 14/1 general)
3.30 – 2m4½f Jordan Electrics Ltd Future Champion Novices’ Chase (Grade 2): Mia’s Storm didn’t handle the step up to Grade 1 level in the Kauto Star after an early mistake but she’s better than that, this should suit more. Alan King had a couple of fine winners yesterday as due reward for some good efforts and she can get the better of Peregrine Run, who also has been waiting for this ground but no bet as she’s a short price.
Advice: No bet.
For our premium tips, check out our Horse Racing Community.