Roalco to sweep away National rivals
Jack Nicol brings us his horse-by-horse guide to Saturday's Coral Scottish Grand National at Ayr.
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Made it as far as the Canal Turn in the Aintree equivalent last week with a jockey before eventually playing a major role in the race when taking out the frontrunning Across The Bay. In the circumstances, this is a monumental task under top-weight and he is one to overlook, despite his impressive past achievements.
Lightly-raced novice who ran well enough when fifth in the RSA Chase last month. Trainer Paul Nicholls believes that four miles will suit his seven-year-old but he lacks the necessary experience to make him a particularly attractive proposition here.
Another novice who will need to bounce back from a poor run where he finished a distant third - 29 lengths behind the second-placed Sam Winner - last time out. This race has been a target for a long time but this seven-year-old surely has to be taken on given his lack of experience.
Rigadin De Beauchene:
Pulled up in this race last year, but did win the Grand National Trial at Haydock in heavy ground; no real reason to see why he can improve enough to win this year, though, especially with the drying ground.
Talented performer on his day but has pulled up twice and refused to race twice on his four racecourse appearances this season and is still 1lb higher than his last winning mark. Avoid.
Would appear to be Nicky Henderson's first string but all of his best efforts have come in smallish fields and his jumping cannot be trusted, especially in the hurly-burly of a 30-runner Scottish National. One to rule out.
Last year's winner who has disappointed so far this season; he also missed his ultimate target of the Grand National last week due to a late setback and that remains a niggling concern as to his prospects here.
Finished a good fourth at the Cheltenham Festival behind subsequent Aintree winners Holywell and Ma Filleule and that form certainly has him in with a chance here. The trip is obviously a concern but the track holds no fears having won twice at Ayr and he could prove the strongest of the front three in the betting.
Getting on at 12 years now and hasn't won since 2012; produced a good performance under top weight last time out but looks opposable on balance.
Consistent performer whose only bad run this season came over an inadequate trip. Geared up for this race for a while and has an appealing racing weight of just 10st 1lb. Must have decent claims for last year's winning trainer Alan King.
The last of the horses in the handicap proper and he could go well having won very easily at Down Royal last time out. He has a good record at this track and holds each-way claims.
Running well without any great reward this term having mixed and matched between hurdles and fences; although he looks handicapped to the hilt now and others are preferred.
One who could potentially run a big race at the price having won the Durham National over three miles and six under top-weight last season. He fell on his first start this season and has been campaigned over hurdles since, but those two runs should have him spot-on here.
Intriguing contender who has threatened to win one of these big staying races all season; the visor looked to help him on his penultimate run at Haydock but he was pulled up at the same course last time out. Others preferred.
Has refused to race on two of his four chase starts but did finish a good second behind Goulanes in the Midlands National last time out. This looks a huge ask on only his fifth start over fences, though, and it's best to look elsewhere.
Useful performer for the Peter Bowen yard but has become a bit hot and cold this season; interesting to see which horse turns up this time but he is best left alone on his first start in 2014.
Inconsistent this season, his two runs since his victory over three miles at Southwell in August have been very disappointing and he must be taken on here.
Similar profile to Mendip express, in that he is a lightly-raced novice who comes here on the back of a heavy defeat now having something to prove; his two chase victories have come in low-key three and six-runner fields respectively and this represents a much stiffer test. Plenty to prove.
Nuts N Bolts:
May have slipped under the radar for trainer Lucinda Russell; the eight-year-old hasn't been the easiest to train, hence he has only had three runs this season but has course form and will see out the trip well. Shortlisted.
Completing the Lucinda Russell battalion, he has been campaigned exclusively to hurdles this season. A return to fences sees him on a favourable mark compared to that over timber and he could have each-way claims if he sees out this marathon trip.
Roalco De Farges:
Finished second in the Bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown as a novice back in 2012 and has returned in 2014 to confirm that promise with a comfortable success last time out. Philip Hobbs has his string in top order at the moment and the ground and trip hold no fears for his charge here.
Fill The Power:
Plugged on into fifth in this race last year and faces a tougher task this season having to race from out of the handicap; won a minor chase at Wetherby back in February but disappointed last time out and other are definitely preferred.
Ran a big race to finish third in last season's renewal and looks to be coming to hand again following a victory at Kelso on his penultimate start and then a decent second over an inadequate trip last time out.
Those who backed Pineau De Re to win last week's National would surely be forgiven if following up this week with Trustan Times. He was only a neck behind the Aintree hero in the Pertemps Final at Cheltenham last month and may just have been geared for this race all season.
Stamina won't be an issue for the 10-year-old here after he won over three miles and two furlongs on heavy ground on his penultimate start, before then finishing fourth in the Midlands National last time out; the ground is probably going to be quick enough for him though, and others hold better chances.
Reinvigorated by Dan Skelton this season after appearing to lose his way last term; he's managed two victories and a decent second in the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster so far this year and could sneak into a place if he sees out the trip.
Irish-trained runners have a poor record in this race over the past decade and Sole Witness looks unlikely to improve that stat here after he was beaten a long way in a veterans' chase at Navan last time out. Oppose.
Arguably capable of a big run here following his staying-on fourth in the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham last time out but he is 10lb out of the handicap, though, and this is probably a step too far too soon.
Sir Du Bearn:
Another Peter Bowen representative who has been running over this sort of trip this season, but there's nothing to suggest he'll be good enough to get in contention here and the drying ground would also be a negative. Another to rule out.
Returns from a break here and rounds off the field; he was well fancied for the Sussex National last time out but was pulled up a long way from home and is another to cross off the list.
Owners 'The Brushmakers' may have missed out on Grand National glory last week with Balthazar King but they may be able to gain compensation with ROALCO DE FARGES this week.
The nine-year-old grey has a touch of class, as demonstrated by his second place finish in the aforementioned Bet365 Gold Cup as a novice back in 2012. Injury may have prevented him from racing in 2013 but Philip Hobbs has nursed him back to full fitness this year and he was very impressive last time out at Newbury.
An 8lb rise for that success is supplemented by the fact that he is a further 5lb out of the handicap here so must effectively race from a 13lb higher mark. But he looked to have a bit more in hand than the bare result suggested there, ticks all of the right boxes and should go very close for his in-form trainer who has only narrowly missed out in this race in past years.
Alan King's Midnight Appeal is another who catches the eye and is one of only 11 runners who are actually in the handicap proper; Sue Smith's Lackamon is another interesting runner having won the Durham National last season and is sure to see out this gruelling test of stamina, whereas Nuts N Bolts can fare best of Lucinda Russell's trio of runners.
1. ROALCO DE FARGES
3. Midnight Appeal
4. Nuts N Bolts