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It’s Scottish Grand National day at Ayr on Sunday and we’ll be bringing you five races over the jumps on the main ITV Racing channel and five on the level from Newbury.
King D”argent comes into this contest on the back of two easy wins at Warwick and Southwell but is now 19lbs higher than that first Southwell win. He will handle conditions and deserves to be among the market leaders for the Skelton team. However, Paul Nicholls’ Grand Sancy is the one I like. He ran too free at Newbury over 2m 4f but drops back to the minimum 2m trip now and that will suit him.
He looks competitively handicapped off his mark of 145, should handle the ground and track and looks a good bet to put it up to King D’argent.
Irish trainer Emmet Mullins won with his last runner in Scotland when The Shunter won at Kelso before going on to land the £100k bonus by winning at Cheltenham too. Pilbara has not got much experience over fences but finished second at Listowell in September. He made a few jumping errors at Galway a month later and hasn’t been seen since.
This is a decent prize and I’m pretty sure Mullins will have him tuned for this. Christian Williams’ Five Star Getaway has been rising through the handicap ranks with three wins on the bounce but has to give 7lbs to Pilbara, even with Jack Tudor’s 3lb claim. Marown could be a bigger danger. He has been brought along slowly by trainer Nicky Richards, has course form and Brian Hughes rides. .
Paul Nicholls’ Thyme White is a strong traveller, but a weak finisher in his races but Ayr’s flat track and the better ground can really bring out the best in him. He looks fairly well handicapped and is closely matched with Milkwood on their Betfair Hurdle running. Milkwood will love the track and ticks all the right boxes after a good run at Cheltenham when third to Belfast Banter in the County Hurdle.
Calico had very good form in Germany and ran a very good race in the Dovecote Hurdle at Kempton when second to Cape Gentleman. Irish raider Anna Bunina is the mount of Brian Hughes and wasn’t disgraced when eighth in the County Hurdle. Trainer John McConnell has a good record with his UK raids too.
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A four-runner field for the Grade 2 Novices Chase where the main players form with Arkle Chase winner Shishkin could be key. Tamaroc du Mathan ran a hell of a race behind Shishkin at Kempton and is quite closely matched on that running with Allmankind who was fourth to Nicky Henderson’s potential superstar at Cheltenham. They both carry 11st 5lbs on Sunday, which should favour Allmankind who is rated 10lbs higher than Tamaroc du Mathan on official ratings. I’m not sure sure that is that much between them though on their respective form, especially over this 2m 4f trip.
The cheekpieces helped Vintage Clouds a lot at Cheltenham where he ran out a game winner of the Ultima Chase from Happygolucky who was an impressive winner and Aintree last week with Aye Right back in third.
He’s gone up 7lbs for that win but has been competitive off this mark before. He ran in the Scottish National two years ago and finished sixth.
Alan King’s Notachance won nicely in the Classic Chase at Warwick and is versatile with regards to the ground conditions. His trainer loves this race and he mentioned it as a possible target when I spoke to him after Warwick. He has to bounce back from a very disappointing run in the Haydock Chase but King’s horses are in good form at the moment and he’s got a live each-way chance.
Irish raider Mister Fogpatches has a chance at the foot of the weights as all the big handicaps seem to be won by Irish-trained horses these days! He is unexposed over fences and could be open to any amount of improvement and has proven form on this ground. He was very nearly the main selection.
I would love to see Aye Right win as he is so consistent in these big chase handicaps but I fear he may have to settle for the places again.
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