Alan Thomson, the former Racing Editor at the Daily Record, puts up five tips at Ayr on Saturday. View selections below.
VICENTE (4.10) will appreciate the drying ground at Ayr and looks a cracking each-way bet to give Paul Nicholls a big-money boost in the Coral Scottish Grand National.
This year’s gruelling four-miler has the added ingredient of a trainers’ championship crown slug-out between Nicholls and Willie Mullins, making a rare Ayr raid with Measureofmydreams.
The Irish horse was about eight lengths in front of Vicente when they finished third and fifth respectively behind Minella Rocco in the four-mile National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham. Runner-up Native River recorded a splendid victory at Aintree last weekend to give the form a boost.
Vicente was returning from a 95-day break at Cheltenham and was hampered by a loose horse three out. Nicholls’ seven-year-old beat another Cheltenham festival winner, Un Temps Pour Tout, earlier in the season. Vicente springs to life at this time of year when encountering better ground and he recorded back-to-back wins at Wincanton and Newton Abbot last April/May.
Measureofmydreams clearly has to come into the picture and is just preferred to top weight Cause Of Causes, thumped with a 13lb rise for landing the Kim Muir at Cheltenham. Having said that, Cause Of Causes was really motoring at the end of that 3m 2f contest, so the extra yardage will be right up his street.
Vyta Du Roc is another near the top of my shortlist, having handed out a beating to Minella Rocco in the Reynoldstown at Ascot in February before finishing a one-paced fifth to Blaklion in the RSA Chase at Cheltenham.
The aforementioned fancies are all young progressive sorts but of the older brigade surely Golden Chieftain deserves a change of fortune for Colin Tizzard. Golden Chieftain had the Midlands National at Uttoxeter at his mercy when crashing out at the final obstacle and was motoring in the lead three out at Exeter when coming to grief in the race won by Midnight Prayer.
The QPS Scottish Champion Hurdle also looks wide open, with Richard Johnson and Philip Hobbs bidding to follow up Cheltenian’s triumph 12 months ago. They rely on STERNRUBIN (3.00) after his mighty effort in the Vincent O’Brien County Hurdle, leading between the last two flights before being outgunned close home by Superb Story and Fethard Player.
Sternrubin was bouncing back from his flop in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury and he also ran a cracker at Ascot previously when landing The Ladbroke.
There is little separating the Mullins pair Ivan Grozny and Clondaw Warrior. The former could hardly have been more impressive when scooting clear at Aintree last Saturday, while Clondaw Warrior landed a very competitive 15-runner handicap at Fairyhouse last month, beating the likes of The Plan Man, Modem and Desoto County.
Shrewd has been brilliantly placed by ‘Scobie’ Jardine to score over hurdles and the all-weather this winter and will be sitting just off the pace before delivering his usual late rattle. This test is a good bit tougher than usual, however, and Shrewd may be found out in this company.
BRISTOL DE MAI (2.25) has enjoyed a cracking season and further success should await in the Future Champions’ Novices’ Chase.
He made all to land the Scilly Isles Chase at Sandown, beating two good animals in As De Mee and Tea For Two, and he produced a sterling performance at the Cheltenham festival, leading until Black Hercules swept past between the last two flights.
Henryville rates a threat if the track is riding fairly quick. A 3lb allowance over all five rivals puts him on a ratings par with Bristol De Mai and he was always cantering when scoring at Exeter following a 165-day absence.
Gordon Elliott is a very popular trainer in Scotland due to his successful Perth raids in recent years and ESHTIAAL (4.45) will carry plenty of local support in the 2m 5f handicap hurdle.
A winner over two miles at York last July, Eshtiaal has been kept well away from deep winter ground over hurdles and reappeared after a 221-day absence to score at Dundalk last month. He gets in here off 10st 6lb, with Barry Geraghty booked, and he looks something to bet on if the ground is decent.
ALCALA (5.20) carries the Graham Wylie colours in the 2m 4f ‘Hands And Heels’ Handicap Hurdle Final, a race confined to conditional and amateur riders. Harry Cobden was aboard when Alcala ran third to Barney Dawn in a hot event at Sandown last month and keeps the mount.
Previously, Alcala beat subsequent winner The Fresh Prince at Fontwell and was sent off favourite (sixth) for a Pertemps Network Hurdle qualifier at Wincanton on Boxing Day, a race won by useful If In Doubt.
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