Day 2 of the April Ayr meeting has the Coral Scottish Grand National as its centrepiece at 3.55, with 30 going to post.
At 10-1 the field there are any number of horses vying for favouritism, including last year’s winner Vicente, who fell early in the Aintree version and can compete off the same mark as in 2016. However, there has been little sign this season of the 8-y-o being able to repeat the dose, so we look elsewhere.
Three years ago, this race was won by Al Co, with Trustan Times, trained by Tim Easterby, a close 3rd off a mark of 140. Wind forward and the horse is now in the hands of Mark Walford, having missed nearly two years through injury. TT has had just two runs for his new yard, both over hurdles, but ran out a comfortable winner at the beginning of this month at Kelso, which proved, if nothing else, that the ability is still there.
The long break has seen his mark fall to 132, his trainer is in blinding form and this has been the plan, so at 16-1 (SkyBet, Paddy Power, Coral – all paying first 6 places) there will be many worse each way bets.
Can’t leave this race analysis without suggesting a tiny e/w punt on dear Shotgun Paddy at 20-1 (Coral). One of these days it’s gonna win a race like this and I’d hate to miss it.
The other feature race on the card is the QTS Scottish Champion Hurdle at 2.45. With 16 runners, this handicap could be described as ‘fierce’ but, as each way bets go, an investment on Alan King’s Winter Escape at 11-2 (bet365) could be one of the better ones. A winner of all three hurdle races as a novice, including a Grade 2, big things were expected from this 6-y-o, but sickness prevented it from running at all until December last, when, perhaps surprisingly, it went off 3-1 favourite for the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham, finishing 11th.
The cobwebs were well and truly knocked off next time out, when JP McManus’s charge finished a close 5th in the County Hurdle at the Festival and today should see the horse at its peak. In the absence of Barry Geraghty, connections have brought over Mark Walsh for the one ride and the hint should be taken.
As a ‘saver’, have a few pennies e/w on Zubayr of Paul Nichols’ at 22-1 (BetVictor).
Another horse yet to realise its full potential, this 5-y-o ran much better than its 6th place finish suggests at Aintree two weeks ago and the step back to 2 miles is very much in its favour. Could surprise under S T-D.