PAUL Nicholls had possibly the greatest day of his racing career last Saturday when Neptune Collonges finally broke his Grand National hoodoo, and Team Ditcheat will be confident of notching another big win tomorrow as Harry The Viking looks to hold strong claims in the Coral Scottish Grand National (3.25pm).
The seven-year-old, part-owned by Sir Alex Ferguson, has never finished out of the first two in six career starts and was an excellent second behind Teaforthree in the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham last month. The 2011 winner of this race, Beshabar, also finished second in the four-miler prior to his run at Ayr, so he has solid credentials, but I don’t think it was a particularly strong race and, at 6/1 with Coral, I’m prepared to take him on.
The term “horses for courses” should never be disregarded and if there is one track where MERIGO comes alive, it’s here at Ayr. Andrew Parker’s 11-year-old has run seven times at this course and has never finished out of the first three, winning four times, including this race two years ago.
He is an out and out stayer and I was hugely impressed with his run in this race 12 months ago. He was 15lb higher than when successful in 2010, but was still only beaten three quarters of a length by Beshabar. Now, his performances earlier this season saw him drop a huge 13lb to a mark of 129, but he bounced back last time at this track and races off 134 tomorrow, which is 8lb lower than this race last year.
What is especially interesting is that Timmy Murphy’s mount was in poor form prior to this contest last spring and I’m sure his season has been targeted entirely around this race. He goes on all types of ground and I can’t see him out of the first four, so take some of the 7/1 available with Coral.
Portrait King rates a big danger on his win in the Eider Chase in February, but that wasn’t a strong race and he has gone up in the weights since. I will be throwing a few pennies at ANY CURRENCY, though, as he relishes a stamina test, has next to no weight and still looks well-handicapped. Coral’s 25/1 is more than fair.
Tomorrow’s Newbury card is very tricky but FURY is worth backing in the Spring Cup at 3.45pm. William Haggas’ four-year-old has to carry top weight, but he is the class horse in the race and the current wet conditions are perfect for him. He was gelded in the summer and that seems to have done the trick based on his cracking effort in the Lincoln.
It’s the Investec Derby Trial at Epsom next Wednesday and both the sponsor and the racecourse should be commended for increasing prize money and offering a wild-card entry into the Investec Derby. The race is now worth £50,000 and prize money for the Investec Oaks and Diamond Jubilee Coronation Cup (sponsored by Investec) has also been boosted.
Read my thoughts in a special Punter next Wednesday focusing on the Investec Derby Trial. You can follow me on Twitter @BillEsdaile for all my racing views.
MERIGO e/w 3.25pm Ayr (tomorrow)
ANY CURRENCY e/w 3.25pm Ayr (tomorrow)
FURY e/w 3.45pm Newbury (tomorrow)