Scottish National Tips

- 12:04, 20th April 2017

“The big race this Saturday is of course the Scottish Grand National; the biggest race of the year for Ayr and Scotland! Vicente won the four mile contest last year and comes here on the same mark after falling at the first in the Grand National last time.” JJ

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As with the Grand National at Aintree, I like to select one horse for every 10 in the Scottish National. So I’ve narrowed it down to three for the four mile handicap chase, but of course there are about 20 that could win! The first one I like is number 19 VINTAGE CLOUDS (14/1) for Sue Smith and Danny Cook. Both trainer and jockey have been deadly all season and her form hasn’t let up recently with a superb 21% strike-rate coming into this. The seven-year-old has been running well without winning all season with three seconds, two falls and a third in the locker already.

However, I first had the inkling a step-up in trip would work the oracle when he was badly outpaced in the Peter March, but still staying on when falling at the third last. Next time he was outpaced again over three miles four and somehow stayed on from out in the clouds into an excellent third behind Vieux Lion Rouge and Blaklion. The last time we saw him was in a red hot Ultima Handicap Chase, where again he was making stealthy headway before coming down two out. He just looks an out-and-out stayer to me and I’m sure he’s better than his current mark of 134.

The second gelding I like is TRUSTAN TIMES (20/1) for Mark Walford and Jake Greenhall. The 11-year-old was a close third in this in 2014 off of eight pounds higher and looked to be back to his best last time over hurdles. Not only did he win with tonnes in hand at Kelso last time, loads was against him that day; the ground was probably softer than ideal and the 20 furlongs trip was literally miles below his optimum. This has very clearly been the plan for a long while with only two starts this season, both over hurdles, and he looks certain to go close off of a very attractive mark.

The final horse I like at a bigger price is last year’s second place ALVARADO (33/1) for Fergal O’Brien, who is having his best season ever, and a very eye-catching jockey booking of Brian Hughes. I get the feeling connections knew he was going to run badly at Cheltenham last time and this race has been the plan all season. It’s not the best coming into a race like this after pulling up but he was beaten out of site in his prep for this last year and he has managed to squeeze a four pound reduction from the handicapper. It means he comes here at number 27 and a six pound lower mark than when second last season. What’s more, we know for sure that he stays even further than this as he was fourth in the Aintree National twice in a row; both off of much higher marks.

Yes he’s a 12-year-old now but I think he’s shown enough this season to tell me there’s life in the old dog yet. After re-watching his sixth in the Edinburgh National he did well to get as close as he did after a couple of terrible errors, especially at the fourth last when Paul Maloney did well to say on-board. He was also staying on through the line at Cheltenham back in November when sixth of 17 in a grade three handicap chase over three miles two, which is short of his optimum trip.




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