The Scottish Grand National at Ayr is always one of the top 10 betting races of the year, thanks in part to its traditional position in the calendar, just seven days after punters have their enthusiasm rekindled by the Grand National at Aintree. This year, of course, Easter intervened, but the latest renewal is only marginally less competitive than its English counterpart and few in the 30-strong field can be dismissed with confidence.
Missed Approach, who rallied well in the closing stages to finish second in the four-miler at Cheltenham in March, will be a popular choice, and so too Southfield Royale, who was a faller mid-race when strongly fancied for the Kim Muir at the same meeting.
Vicente (3.35) was such an easy winner of this race 12 months ago, however, that he deserves a chance at around 10-1 to atone for his first-fence fall in the Grand National a fortnight ago. He has run well without threatening to win in several big handicaps this season, and will take some beating off the same if the change in the seasons brings a return to his best form.
Newbury 1.55 Midterm was the favourite for the Derby just under a year ago, before disappointing in the Dante at York. Given Sir Michael Stoute’s reputation as a trainer of older horses, he must be respected but also has something to prove. Dal Harraild put up a big performance on the clock when third in a handicap off 102 in September and also promises to be a Group-class performer this year.
Ayr 2.10 Flying Angel and Cloudy Dream had tough races to finish a length apart in a Grade 1 at Aintree two weeks ago and Clan Des Obeaux, who missed both of the major spring festival meetings, can give Paul Nicholls his sixth win in this race since 2002.
Newbury 2.30 Dabyah moved further up the ladder last season than her stable companion Daban, the winner of Wednesday’s Nell Gwyn at Newmarket, and is clearly held in equally high regard by John Gosden. Queen Kindly was a leading juvenile but her stamina is a question mark, and Dabyah should be good enough to win here on the way to a Classic in either England or France.
Ayr 2.45 With question marks over the former Triumph winner Peace And Co and stable companion L’Ami Serge, the useful Tommy Silver, who goes well for conditional Stan Sheppard, could be the answer here.
Newbury 3.05 Dream Castle, a son of Frankel, was well backed and deeply impressive on his debut at Doncaster in April. This is a swift step up in class but the time of his Doncaster success suggested that he is up to this standard. Barney Roy, another once-raced runner in Godolphin blue, could be the main danger, while Zainhom, second in a Group 3 in October, sets the standard on juvenile form.
Ayr 3.20 Double W’s stayed on strongly to win a furiously contested Red Rum Handicap Chase at Aintree last time, and a similar contest seems likely here. A 5lb rise gives him every chance to follow up.
Newbury 3.40 The draw has not played an obvious role in recent renewals of the Spring Cup, which makes it even more difficult to pick apart one of the most competitive fields in the early part of the season. Chelsea Lad is unexposed and will be popular choice with Ryan Moore riding for in-form trainer Martyn Meade, while Banksea also has plenty of form to give him every chance and Donncha must surely pick up one of these big-field handicaps sooner or later. The value, though, may lie with the 12-1 shot George William, who did well to win by a neck last time after finding trouble in running and is just 4lb higher here as a result.
Ayr: 1.40 Laurium, 2.10 Clan Des Obeaux, 2.45 Tommy Silver, 3.20 Double W’s, 3.55 Vicente (nb), 4.30 The Dutchman, 5.05 Touch Kick, 5.40 Baracalu
Newbury: 1.55 Dal Harraild, 2.30 Dabyah, 3.05 Dream Castle, 3.40 George William (nap),4.15 Red Royalist, 4.45 Musical Terms, 5.20 Face The Facts, 5.55 Amazing Red
Thirsk: 1.50 Foolaad, 2.20 Ancient Astronaut, 2.55 Noah Amour, 3.30 Custom Cut,
4.05 Computable, 4.40 Mukhayyam, 5.15 Keyser Soze, 5.50 Sea Of Green
Bangor-on-Dee: 2.00 Front At The Last, 2.35 Imperial Prince, 3.10 Ganbei, 3.45 Blue April, 4.20 Without Frontier, 4.55 Box Office, 5.25 Glama
Wolverhampton: 5.45 Indian Pursuit, 6.15 Dark Side Dream, 6.45 Powerful Dream, 7.15 Spiritual Star, 7.45 Scribner Creek, 8.15 Al Zaman, 8.45 Bottleofsmoke
Nottingham: 5.30 Major Valentine, 6.00 Simmy’s Copshop, 6.30 Forever Song, 7.00 Dangerous Ends, 7.30 Roller, 8.00 Suwaan