Rival to chase down challengers in Scottish Grand National

THE Coral Scottish Grand National (3.50pm) is one of the final big races of the National Hunt season and it is always a gruelling test. This year even more so, perhaps, with Ayr receiving a bucketload of rain on Wednesday night and the current going is soft, heavy in places.

Auroras Encore is attempting to become the first horse since Red Rum in 1974 to win both Grand Nationals in the same season and Sue Smith’s 11-year-old is going to have to do it off top weight and on ground that he doesn’t like.

The key to this year’s contest is the four miler at Cheltenham and I’m expecting RIVAL D’ESTRUVAL to bounce back from an unlucky fall at the second last when holding every chance. He is a classy horse and is guaranteed to stay this trip, so long as he has recovered from that blunder I expect him to go very close at 6/1 with the sponsors.

It’s always worth throwing a couple of darts at a race as competitive as this and the one at a big price who is worth backing is REBECCAS CHOICE. Dai Burchell’s runner finished second in the Midlands Grand National last time, following back-to-back wins, and off just 10st 4lb he has sound each-way claims at 20/1.

The big betting race at Newbury tomorrow is the Spring Cup (2.20pm) and I fancy EDUCATE to continue the remarkable run of trainer Ismael Mohammed. The Newmarket handler has had 11 runners this year and has astonishingly won eight of those races, including my selection who took Doncaster’s Spring Mile last time.

I love the way this four-year-old only does just enough which means the handicapper struggles to get a grip on him. Stall four looks good with plenty of fancied and speedy horses around him and 7/1 with Coral is more than fair.

For those of you looking to have a bet this afternoon, don’t miss ROCK CHOIR in Newbury’s opener (2.00pm). The fact that Richard Hughes rides this William Haggas runner rather than a Richard Hannon contender speaks volumes.

Later on the card, I’ve had a good word for Charlie Hills’ JAZZ in the maiden at 3.40pm. The yard won this race with Englishman 12 months ago and they are expecting to be in the winner’s enclosure again.

The QIPCO British Champions Series gets underway at Newmarket in a fortnight and Sheikh Fahad Al Thani’s Qatar Racing and Pearl Bloodstock are running an Eight to Follow competition. All you have to do is pick eight of the two organisations’ runners this season and points will be awarded throughout the season.

It costs £10 to enter with a first prize of £5000 and all proceeds will be donated to Racing Welfare. Visit qatarracingltd.com for more details.

Finally, everyone at City AM would like to wish QIPCO British Champions Series’ Sara Leach the very best of luck in Sunday’s London Marathon. We are sponsoring her and she will be wearing the City AM colours during the race.

Sarah is running for YouthNet and Age UK and donations can be made here: uk.virginmoneygiving.com/saraLeach.


ROCK CHOIR 2.00pm Newbury (today)
JAZZ 3.40pm Newbury (today)
EDUCATE e/w 2.20pm Newbury (tomorrow)
RIVAL D’ESTRUVAL 3.50pm Ayr (tomorrow)
REBECCAS CHOICE e/w 3.50pm Ayr (tomorrow)