WITH the Flat now in full flow, we have arrived at the business end of the jump season on these shores with just tomorrow’s Coral Scottish Grand National (3.55pm) and next weekend’s finale at Sandown to go.
Last year’s winner Vicente heads the betting for the four-mile contest having slipped back down to the same handicap mark as 12 months ago.
The eight-year-old got no further than the first in the Grand National, so will line-up tomorrow a relatively fresh horse who we know goes well in the spring.
He is definitely a leading player, but I am just worried he is not quite in the same form as he was this time last year and for that reason I am happy to oppose him.
I prefer to take a chance on Neil Mullholland’s SOUTHFIELD ROYALE, who will be making only his third start of the season on Saturday.
He was extremely well-fancied when falling early in the Kim Muir at last month’s Cheltenham Festival and he looks to have been given a real chance by the handicapper off a mark of just 141.
Don’t forget, he wasn’t beaten far when fourth behind Minella Rocco and Native River in last year’s National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham over this trip and that form looks rock solid.
With his stable in red-hot form, he looks a really decent each-way bet at 10/1 with 188BET.
It’s easy to also make cases for the likes Premier Bond and Arpege D’Alene, who both ran well in their respective races at the Cheltenham Festival. But instead I’m keen to take a leap of faith and go with ANOTHER HERO at 20/1 with the sponsors.
Jonjo O’Neill is another trainer ending the season in terrific form and I’ve been waiting for him to aim this one at a marathon contest like this.
He was quietly fancied for last season’s Irish Grand National, but sadly fell too early in the contest to tell whether the trip suited him or not.
Anyway, he ran well at Ascot back in December when his stable was under a cloud and followed that with a great run at Doncaster in January when shaping like he needed further than three miles.
You can ignore his latest run at Cheltenham as he was badly hampered. I’m expecting a bold showing at a decent price.
Trainer Dan Skelton won last year’s Scottish Champion Hurdle (2.45pm) with Ch’Tibello and he looks to have an excellent chance of making it back-to-back wins in the race with MOHAAYED.
The lightly-raced five-year old was making only the fourth start of his hurdling career when finishing a close-up seventh in the County Hurdle at Cheltenham and can race off the same mark tomorrow.
His two best performances have both come on good ground and with conditions in his favour once again, he has to be backed each-way at 8/1.
Skelton is another trainer who has his team firing on all cylinders and Mohaayed sneaks in at the bottom with a flyweight.
At an even bigger price, I can see John Constable going well for Evan Williams at around 14/1.
He crashed out at the last at Aintree when bang in contention and can go well again despite a 5lb rise.
My only concern with him is the woeful form of his stable.
Mohaayed e/w 2.45pm Ayr
Southfield Royale e/w 3.55pm Ayr
Another Hero e/w 3.55pm Ayr