Brendan Duke: My dreams have me eyeing up Ayr and falling for the flat

On the back of the Grand National at Aintree, our racing fantastic is looking ahead to another huge week ahead…



A difficult week is behind me, yet again I failed to find the National winner. Tiger Roll for the umpteenth time showed he is all heart.

The last time I saw him he was being showered with reviving buckets of water after a huge effort in the Cross Country at Cheltenham. To be back fighting fit a month later was some effort, a credit to connections.

My two ante post wagers for the Derby ran within 24 hours of each other. Neither won, grim stuff.

I haven’t given up on either, but at the moment the 2018 flat season is shaping up as a summer of love. In the tennis sense, anyway.

Jump to for the latest racing odds

Further horrors were inflicted during my subconscious hours too. Everybody dreams and I’m no different of course, but I very rarely remember them.

Good thing too, occasionally I will awaken in the middle of one as happened last week. This of course will put you in mind of the Bangles classic ‘Magic Monday’. Susanna Hoffs alarm interrupts her while ‘kissing Valentino by a crystal blue Italian stream’.

A sweet, bucolic scene ruthlessly cut short by reality. Probably a good thing my dream didn’t come to a conclusion, given it involved Danny Mullins, allegations of cheating in a poker game and me as lead defence counsel in a kind of Kangaroo court. Susanna Hoffs though, always nice to be reminded of the women who eased me through puberty.

This week promises much. A mini-heatwave is expected, so hopefully racing on deep ground is a thing of the past. The big race depends on your persuasion.

The Craven meeting at Newmarket is often the scene of flat devotees wishing each other a happy new year. Ayr hosts the Scottish National. As a man who celebrates the glorious diversity race fans are lucky to enjoy in this part of the world, I’m looking forward to both.

Roaring Lion looks the headline act at Newmarket. John Gosden rarely misses a trick and getting more experience into this horse before the Guineas looks a wise move. He did have four starts as a two-year-old, but looked a slow learner.

Despite wayward tendencies, he managed to get the better of the talented Nelson in the Royal Lodge over the Craven course and distance.

He didn’t get away with such antics in the RP Trophy at Doncaster. Again, he travelled like the best horse in that race before hanging like a rusty gate and getting worried out of it late on by Saxon Warrior. My hunch is that it was inexperience as opposed to a lack of resolve that cost him there.

Expect to see a more rounded model this season. The 7/1 for the Guineas looks a perfectly good bet. As odds of 4/7 suggest, he should win comfortably on Thursday and shorten for the big one in May.

After doing dough at Fairyhouse and Aintree, my appetite for betting in the Scottish Grand National is lacking. Luckily, as indie band The National would say, ‘it’s the side effects that save us’.

The Scottish Champion Hurdle on Saturday’s under card looks to have a juicy bet in it. As mentioned earlier we’re looking at a warm, dry week. The ground in Ayr is currently soft, but expect it to be good for the weekend.

This is music to the ears of Verdana Blue fans. I fancied her strongly for the Betfair Hurdle in February after a luckless run in a hot handicap at Ascot. Everything was going smoothly as she cruised into contention jumping the secondnd last.

Alas when asked for her effort, she got bogged down in the testing ground.

Though ultimately well beaten, my belief that she’s well handicapped remains. She was a late defector from the Champion Hurdle.

Granted it wasn’t a vintage renewal, but the entry suggests she’s held in high regard. Nicky Henderson carried all before him at Aintree and off the same mark as Newbury, I expect her to carry on the good work this weekend.

She should be favourite and the 8/1 with Paddy makes plenty of appeal.

Head over to for the latest racing odds

* All odds correct at time of posting.