Another week – another National. We’re north of the border to Ayr for the Scottish Grand National and there’s also Flat action from Newbury. The race planning may seem like madness by having two Nationals in the same week – but for what’s left of the jumps season, the bigger races are now going to come thick and fast.
A two-mile Listed Handicap Chase get the card underway. The one I like is Saint Leo who last ran over hurdles at Kelso, having fallen at this venue in a handicap chase. He could be very well handicapped and I’d be very confident he will hit the first three at least at an each-way price.
You have to be careful backing horses who had hard races at Cheltenham. Some can perform to the same level and some can’t. Kilfilum Cross chased home Any Second Now in the Kim Muir and is at the head of the market, but Azzerti also ran a big race when seventh to Siruh Du Lac in the Brown Advisory Plate. Onefortheroadtom is a frustrating character. He should have won at Kemptom but was slow at a few fences, so stepping up in trip is a plus for him, as are the cheek pieces he wears.
I will side with Azzerti as trainer Alan King loves having winners here and his team are in good form.
The Scottish Champion Hurdle is a fascinating race and because it’s a handicap – lots of horses are in with a chance. Verdana Blue has everything going for her but the worry is she ran badly in the race last year. Mister Fisher is a real head-scratcher and needs to bring his homework to the track. If he did, he could figure here.
Sue Smith won the race last year with an unexposed type in Midnight Shadow and I am drawn to her Captain Moirette at a big price. He was a very easy winner last time at Haydock and the faster they go, the better his chance. He just gets the nod.
This Grade Two novice chase has traditionally been won by one of the first two in the betting and I see no reason for that to change this year. Bollywood ran a great race behind Dynamite Dollars at Doncaster before winning at Ludlow and looks like he’ll be suited by this course. I’ll take him to be another winner for the Alan King team.
The featured Scottish National is wide open this year. Vintage Clouds was spared a hard race last Saturday when tipping up at the first fence at Aintree. He could bounce back here after a great run in the race last year, when third to Joe Farrell.
Beware the Bear was very disappointing last year. However, headgear and a wind op have rejuvenated him this season and Saturday’s top weight was a good winner of the Ultima Chase at Cheltenham, where he beat Vintage Clouds by just over a length.
Dingo Dollar and Crosshue Boy finished first and second on this card last year in the novice handicap chase. Dingo Dollar is weighted to turn the tables as Crosshue Boy was ridden by a 5lb claimer back then. Crosspark would also look to have a squeak for Harry Skelton after a nice win in the Eider chase at Newcastle at the end of the month.
I was working at Doncaster when Nicky Richards’ Chidswell won and was super impressed.
He quickened up smartly on nice ground that day and I can see him doing the same in the big race of the day. A step up in trip is what he has been crying out for and looks worth a play particularly with Paddy paying 6 places.
*Prices correct a time of publishing