Alan Thomson, the former Racing Editor at the Daily Record, puts up five tips at Ayr and Newbury on Saturday. View selections below.
GALLANT OSCAR (3.45) can give Ireland its first Coral Scottish Grand National success at Ayr on a thrilling day’s action. Tony Martin and Paul Carberry are a formidable duo and Gallant Oscar caught the eye at last month’s Cheltenham festival, running third to The Druids Nephew in a competitive handicap. The Druids Nephew was still travelling strongly when unluckily slithering out of last Saturday’s Crabbie’s Aintree Grand National and Gallant Oscar produced another fine effort at Gowran Park in January, finishing fourth to Willie Mullins’ rising star Djakadam in the Thyestes Chase.
My selection also ran a cracker over hurdles at Punchestown on New Year’s Eve, narrowly failing to concede 10lb to the much-improved Sort It Out, and he races off a featherweight 10st 1lb. Last year’s 40-1 winner Al Co exited at the first fence in the Grand National but could go well again here, especially if the ground is riding good, as expected.
Scottish-trained Lie Forrit is sure to attract plenty of support and Lucinda Russell’s popular chaser has been in peak form, winning the Betfred Grand National Trial at Haydock from Harry The Viking in a driving finish. Little separates that pair once again at the weights. Broadway Buffalo was sent off favourite that day but fell at the 16th. David Pipe’s Ayrshire-owned gelding will be fancied by many to take his revenge on Lie Forrit, and Broadway Buffalo lost nothing in defeat at Cheltenham, chasing home Cause Of Causes in the four-mile National Hunt Chase (Sego Success fifth and Cogry sixth). Philip Hobbs was among the winners at Cheltenham this week and his unexposed six-year-old Royal Player could go well at a nice price, along with Amigo and Drop Out Joe. Top weight Sam Winner beat classy Medermit and Ma Filleule in the Betfred Chase at Aintree and his third behind Road To Riches in the Lexus at Leopardstown was another excellent effort. However, he flopped in this event last year off a 15lb lower mark which tempers enthusiasm. Drying conditions are against Midlands National hero Goonyella.
SIGN OF A VICTORY (2.35) will appreciate genuine good ground in the QTS Scottish Champion Hurdle. Many of his supporters will have lost faith after two disappointing runs, in the William Hill Christmas Hurdle at Kempton and the Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton, but Nicky Henderson’s young hurdler had earlier hosed up from Dawalan at Ascot. Sign Of A Victory was turned over at odds-on in the novices’ hurdle at this fixture 12 months ago, but winner Vibrato Valtat has since gone from strength to strength over fences.
A small but select field have assembled for the Future Champion Novices’ Chase and TOP GAMBLE (2.00) is taken to bounce back from a rare below-par effort behind Un Ace at Ascot. This bold front-runner was continually harried for the lead and the writing was on the wall a long way out. Richard Lee’s gelding is better judged on a brave Newbury victory over Far West and Top Gamble should stay this longer trip. Charlie Mann’s Seventh Sky is having his 12th start since the end of October but is thriving on hard work judged on his most recent Warwick defeat of No Buts. Seventh Sky also likes to force the pace but may need to sit in behind free-running Top Gamble. Malcolm Jefferson’s Oscar Rock has arrived late on the scene to record back-to-back victories at Newcastle and Kelso, while Solar Impulse will find this company less daunting than when tailed off behind Sizing Granite at Aintree last week. Fine Rightly boasts some seriously strong form in Ireland but, unless there is significant overnight watering, may not be risked on this quicker surface.
On a high-class Newbury programme, IVAWOOD (2.50) will take all the beating in the Aon Greenham Stakes. Richard Hannon’s colt mopped up his first three starts as a juvenile, displaying scorching pace to land the July Stakes at Newmarket and the Richmond Stakes at Goodwood. Ivawood was beaten on the nod by Charlie Appleby’s Charming Thought in the Middle Park Stakes at HQ but that defeat can be attributed to soft underfoot conditions. Belardo and Estidhkaar look his most dangerous opponents but Richard Hughes has been raving about Ivawood all winter.
The 23-runner Spring Cup was won last April by Richard Fahey’s Gabrial’s Kaka and owner Marwan Koukash relies on stablemate GABRIAL (3.25) to supplement his recent Betway Lincoln Handicap success at Doncaster. A 6lb rise clearly makes life more difficult for Gabrial but Lincoln runner-up Mondialiste ran a belter in Thursday’s Group 3 Earl Of Sefton Stakes behind French Navy and Arod to give the form a timely boost. Paul Hanagan, who replaces Tony Hamilton, should find plenty of cover from stall 22. Fahey also saddles Loving Spirit, with Ryan Moore booked, and money for his perceived second string would be most interesting.
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