Like a lot of ‘Derby’ races, many ‘Nationals’ are barely deserving of the celebrated title.
But not the Scottish National, a race whose origins date back to 1858 and a course close to the village of Houston in Renfrewshire, where the majority of the 32 fences were stone walls. The race has been staged at Ayr since 1966 and the two-day meeting looks as competitive as ever.
Last year’s winner Vicente has a live chance of repeating his win.
He’s off the same mark as he defied 12 months, ago and after being well fancied at Aintree he escaped the rigours of the Grand National course when falling at the first.
Trustan Times looks too big a price at 25-1 and is handicapped to win but Nicky Henderson will have other ideas.
He has yet to win the Scottish National and of his three contenders Premier Bond may offer the best chance, having closed strongly in the Kim Muir at Cheltenham to get within two lengths of the winner.
Poker School will run either today (Friday) or tomorrow and is worth a market check at Ayr, whilst Flying Angel can build on his Aintree win in Saturday’s novice chase.
Alan King’s Winter Escape can go close in the handicap hurdle having had a light campaign due to injury.
Dream Castle can emulate his sire Frankel by winning tomorrow’s Greenham Stakes at Newbury and book his ticket to the 2,000 Guineas next month.
One of a few Frankel homebreds owned by Godolphin, he was impressive when winning first time out at Doncaster last month, overcoming some greenness in the early stages to win by two-and-a-half lengths.
Storm Ahead goes in the Spring Cup and looks a progressive sort on offer at each way value of 12-1, and Malton trainer Richard Fahey’s Lowther winner Queen Kindly may reign supreme in the Fred Darling Stakes at 2.30.
Thirsk opens its doors for the first this year and an interesting entry in the Conditions Stakes tomorrow at 2.55 is Mitchum Swagger, who had been lined up for a race at Naas on April 9 before being withdrawn.
He is somewhat ground dependent and anything on the easy side of good will really suit David Lanigan’s five-year-old bay gelding.
CARRIGILL’S NAP (stake returned in a free bet if finishes outside top 4): Vicente Saturday Ayr 3.55
AUGUR’S BEST BET: Mitchum Swagger, Saturday 2.55 Thirsk.
AUGUR’S ONE TO WATCH: Noble Manners ran at Newmarket this week and a maiden in the north over six looks a formality.