Grand Nationals are like London buses you wait for ages and then two come along in a week; Sir Alex Ferguson is likely to be at Ayr, with Manchester United not in action until Sunday, and, as a proud Scot, he will be delighted if Harry The Viking who he owns in partnership with friends including Rolling Stone member Ronnie Wood wins the Scottish National the highlight on a terrific card.
Last years winner Beshabar finished runner up in the Cheltenham Festival 4 miler before landing the race and coincidence punters will be aware that Harry The Viking finished second in the corresponding race last month. Having offered six places in the Aintree National last week (well-backed Ballabriggs sixth) we at betvictor.com will be offering five places on the Scottish equivalent.
He must go close but, following the late withdrawal of Lie Forrit who I have been waiting to back in this race all season, marginal preference is for Knockara Beau (3.25) who finished sixth to the ill-fated Synchronised at Cheltenham in the Gold Cup. The selection has twice this season suggested that an extreme test of stamina will suit and granted a clear round must go close. The Irish raider Portrait King who won the Eider Chase at Newcastle last time is another to consider despite a 9lb hike in the weights.
The other feature race at Ayr is the Scottish Champion Hurdle which can go to the former John Gosden trained winner of the November Handicap on the flat Charm School (2.50) now trained by Evan Williams. The selection is 9lb higher than when successful at Newbury last time but looks to be going the right way and must go close off his light-weight in what looks a sub standard renewal.
There is also a very informative card from Newbury with Fiorente likely to be all the rage for the John Porter Stakes; lightly-raced great things are expected from the four-year-old this term and Sir Michael Stoute is peerless with progressive older horses. A strong pace is guaranteed with habitual front-runner Harris Tweed in the line up, but I have always held Bridge Of Gold (2.00) in high regard and felt he should have won the corresponding race last year when just touched off in a close finish.
He has been off the track since that effort but trainer Mikael Magnusson has his string in good order and the selection has an excellent record fresh; today may be the time to catch him although Fiorente is one to keep on the right side of this term.
Captain Bertie is likely to be all the rage for the Spring Cup having looked an unlucky loser at Doncaster in the Lincoln, but the ground is likely to suit top-weight Fury (3.45) more than it did on Town Moor and he can reward each way support with Kieren Fallon reunited.
It was difficult not to be impressed with the manner of Top Offer’s maiden win last backend and the colt is 6/1 with BetVictor to win the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket next month despite only having that single run to his name as a juvenile.
Roger Charlton’s Classic hope makes his eagerly awaited seasonal reappearance in the Greenham and, although he has a bit to find on the form book, Top Offer (3.10) can maintain his unbeaten record and go to Newmarket with an unblemished record.
Kashgar (7.30) went into a number of notebooks, including mine, when finishing third at Yarmouth on debut and, given he is likely to come on for the experience; he is likely to be hard to beat in the Nottingham 12f maiden.