The Scottish Grand National is the centrepiece of the card at Ayr on Sunday, while there’s some excellent supporting races beforehand.
The big race goes to post at 3.35pm, with action at Ayr from 1.15pm-5.20pm (eight races). Our tipster has selections for the action, including in the Scottish National itself.
1.15 – Scotty Brand Handicap Chase (Listed, 2m½f)
Theinval has a fine record at this meeting, notoriously when ‘double-jobbing’ on both days. He ran well on Friday and could be a factor again. Return Ticket took a gilt-edged chance at Sedgefield last time out but will need more now and this is best kept straightforward. KING D’ARGENT is in flying form and the frontrunner doesn’t appear to have stopped improving yet. He can take this for the Skelton yard.
Selection: King D’Argent
1.50 – CPMS Novices’ Champion Handicap Chase (3m)
A really good race in prospect here and both One More Fleurie and FIVE STAR GETAWAY strike as progressive chasers with more to offer. The former carries a 6lb penalty for last weekend’s win at Warwick and goes on the shortlist but Christian Williams’ charge had any amount in hand at Haydock when cruising clear a fortnight ago for his third straight victory. The handicapper has added 15lb but he could be good enough to defy that.
Selection: Five Star Getaway
2.25 – Coral Scottish Champion Hurdle (Limited Handicap, 2m)
Milkwood (third), ANNA BUNINA (eighth) and Thyme White (12th) re-engage here after running well in the County Hurdle last month at Cheltenham – form that looks reliable. The latter pair weren’t able to really get into that race from the rear but could fare better now and, at the likely prices, John McConnell’s mare is just about the value call.
Selections: Anna Bunina
3.00 – Jordan Electrics Ltd Future Champion Novices’ Chase (Grade 2, 2m)
ALLMANKIND couldn’t keep it going in front in last month’s Arkle at Cheltenham but setting the pace for Shishkin is a challenge that would take most horses from their comfort zone. His earlier form this season includes Grade 1 and Grade 2 novice successes at Sandown and Warwick and he can lead the way from the front to the winning post now.
3.35 – Coral Scottish Grand National Handicap Chase (Grade 3, 4m)
The main dish. There will be lots of expectations on the likes of Aye Right and Dingo Dollar – leading contenders to give Scotland only it’s second winner of this race in 39 years (though Merigo did win in 2010 & 2012). They are major contenders on form for the home team, set to field nine of the 23 contenders.
SOLIDER OF LOVE and Enqarde are the pair that make most appeal. The latter hasn’t been with Dr Richard Newland long but has won twice since November. He was favourite for Haydock’s National Trial in February but faded late on. His trainer fancies a go at this trip and good ground could assist him.
Paul Nicholls has won this race three times and his Soldier Of Love is a key player. He was progressive on good ground last summer, winning four times, before chasing home Galvin at Cheltenham in October. That form is strong and having skipped a rematch last month at Cheltenham on account of the softish ground, conditions are set to be just right for Sean Bowen’s mount now.
Selection: Soldier Of Love
4.10 – Play Coral ‘Racing-Super-Series’ For Free Handicap Hurdle (2m5½f)
WETLANDS is progressing at a rate of knots for Nicky Richards and Brian Hughes, winning his last three over hurdles in excellent fashion. He easily took out a maiden over 2m on heavy ground here in December and has coped with increased distances in landing novice successes at Newcastle and Carlisle since. An opening handicap mark of 132 is within his reach.
4.45 – Coral ‘Fail To Finish’ Free Bets ‘Hands & Heels’ Finale Handicap Hurdle (Conditional And Amateurs, 2m4½f)
GLENTRUAN had plenty in hand when winning a Cork maiden hurdle last month, showing much-improved form having come in for market support. An opening mark of 118 gives him a chance to follow that up and it wouldn’t be a major race meeting in the UK this spring if there weren’t a few Irish-trained winners lurking somewhere.
5.20 – Ayrshire Cancer Support Standard Open NH Flat Race (2m)
A strong bumper to round out the card. Flemenstide was a good winner on second start at Exeter in January and should have fine claims for Paul and Megan Nicholls – seen to good effect last weekend at Aintree. However, that Exeter race hasn’t managed to produce any further winners and LOCK DOWN LUKE is a rival worth noting.
Victorious at Perth on debut back in August, he was second at Carlisle next time behind Peking Rose, and that rival ran the Nicholls winner Knappers Hill very close in that Grade 2 on Merseyside last Saturday. Lock Down Luke could be capable of plenty better.
Selection: Lock Down Luke