Horse by horse: Coral Scottish Grand National at Ayr

Last Updated April 22 2017, 16:35

Lewis Lesbirel’s runner-by-runner guide to Coral Scottish Grand National, with an Irish raider fancied to land the spoils.

Missed Approach – 7yo 11-12 OR: 148 (T: W Greatrex, J: L Aspell)

Ran an absolute cracker when finishing runner up to Tiger Roll in the National Hunt Chase at the Festival. Prior to that he unseated today’s pilot Leighton Aspell at the first round Chepstow and he is prone to the odd jumping error, though was nearly foot perfect last time out and may be starting to get the hang of things over fences. Has valuable course form to his name, albeit over hurdles, after finishing a fine second in a competitive race here just over a year ago and has a great chance providing his Cheltenham exertions haven’t taken too much out of him. 

Vivaldi Collonges - 8yo 11-12 OR: 148 (T: P F Nicholls, J: H Cobden)

Had Grand National hero One For Arthur 26 lengths behind him when winning the opening race on this card a year ago. Has disappointed in his three starts subsequently, failing to complete twice and well beaten on the other occasion. Has some solid form to his name prior to that and is with last year’s winning trainer but hard to fancy him on what he has shown so far this season and has a big weight to carry.

Fine Rightly – 9yo 11-11 OR: 147 (T: S R B Crawford, J: A E Lynch)

A dual Grade Three winner over fences in the past who has also been placed in an Irish Gold Cup and could be the class angle of the race. Hasn’t been in the same vein of form this term but looks to have been trained with this race in mind which may account for his disappointing showing in the Lexus Chase on his penultimate start. Has won at this track on a number of occasions, including once over fences, so is no stranger to making the trip across the Irish Sea. Looks the pick of the three Irish raiders on form and a big run is anticipated with the ground the only real worry having never raced on anything quicker than Good to Soft.

Kruzhlinin – 10yo 11-10 OR: 146 (T: P J Hobbs, J: R Johnson)

A tough and consistent horse who always seems to give his all when he comes to the track. Ran a couple of nice races over hurdles earlier in the season before a return to fences saw him successfully give weight to all but Our Kaempfer at Kempton in January. Subsequently finished a respectable sixth in the Grand National Trial at Haydock but was behind Vintage Clouds who reopposes here on better terms and he’ll have his work cut out to turn the tables with that rival. Has an each-way shout under champion jockey Richard Johnson. 

Vicente – 8yo 11-10 OR: 146 (T: P F Nicholls, J: Sam Twiston-Davies)

Defied a number of jumping errors to run out an impressive winner of this race last year, travelling like a dream throughout and staying on strongly over the final obstacle. Bought buy Trevor Hemmings since last year’s victory with a view to winning Aintree’s showpiece and was well fancied to give his owner a fourth Grand National winner, but got no further than the first fence. Had a much better prep last year after a fine effort in the National Hunt Chase and he holds strong claims off the same mark of 146 once again.

Arpege D’alene – 7yo 11-9 OR: 145 (T: P F Nicholls, J: Sean Bowen)

A classy hurdler who finished second in the Pertemps Network Hurdle at last year’s Festival and has taken well to fences. His most recent effort saw him finish fourth in the National Hunt Chase, three-and-a-quarter lengths behind today’s rival Missed Approach who finished second. He's 3lb better off with that rival this time around and will relish this marathon trip but often finds himself outpaced at the crucial stage of a race before running on late and that may be the case again here.

Seldom Inn – 9yo 11-9 OR: 145 (T: A M Thomson, J: D R Fox)

Had just the two starts this season and is relatively lightly raced for his age. Hacked up on the first of those two starts in a Listed contest at Kelso, beating a good field by 21 lengths before finishing a decent second to Yala Enki at the same course next time out. The trip is a relative unknown and he didn’t give the impression a step in distance is what he needs last time out but his trainer claimed third in this race last year with Seeyouatmidnight and he has to be respected. Flying the flag for Scotland here and with recent Grand National winning jockey Derek Fox in the saddle he should run well.

Battle Of Shiloh – 8yo 11-6 OR: 142 (T: T R George, J: A P Heskin)

Had been winning for fun in lesser events since moving to this yard and remained unbeaten over hurdles, fences and in point-to-points until falling last time out. Looked beaten when coming to grief four out on that occasion and it may be that the handicapper has caught up with him now. Can’t knock his strike rate though and represents a trainer-jockey combination who have enjoyed a fine season. Trip and ground will be no problem and he could surprise a few.

Southfield Royale – 7yo 11-5 OR: 141 (T: N P Mulholland, J: N D Fehily)

Classy novice chaser last season who missed the beginning of this campaign through injury. Returned from that lengthy absence when finishing down the field in a Listed Handicap Chase at Doncaster before blundering and falling in the Kim Muir at the Festival. Will strip much fitter here than on his seasonal reappearance and the return to a longer trip should see him to better effect also. Finished a four-length second last season to Tea For Two who lowered the colours of Cue Card at Aintree recently and it would be silly to rule him out. 

Dancing Shadow – 8yo 11-3 OR: 139 (T: V R A Dartnall, J: N Scholfield)

Finally got off the mark at the eighteenth time of asking when running away with a handicap chase at Doncaster. Wasted no time in doubling his tally next time out in the Edinburgh National over four miles at Musselburgh before being pulled up in the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham last month. Now 17lb higher than his first victory which only came in December and his trainer isn’t on the best run of form so it would be a surprise to see him win here.

Premier Bond – 7yo 11-3 OR: 139 (T: N J Henderson, J: D Bass)

Hasn’t been out of the first three in four runs to date this season, winning two of them and arrives in good form. Had a few of these rivals behind him in the Kim Muir last time out and was just outpaced turning for home before rallying under pressure to finish a close third. Looks the pick of Nicky Henderson’s trio and with just the four starts to his name over fences he could be open to further improvement. Has a great chance and deserves his place amongst the market principals. 

Straidnahanna – 8yo 11-2 OR: 138 (T: Mrs S J Smith, J: S Quinlan)

Won the North Yorkshire Grand National at Catterick a few starts ago and seems to save his best for trips round there. Finished mid division in the Topham over the National fences last time over an inadequate 2m5f but was behind some of today’s rivals on that occasion. Does love these marathon trips and the drying ground won’t be a problem for him but he was pulled up in this race last year and it’s hard to see him landing a blow this time around.  

Shotgun Paddy – 10yo 11-1 OR: 137 (T: Miss E C Lavelle, J: D Jacob)

Another who relishes the test of stamina that this race will provide. Has run well on all of his three starts this season, finishing third in the Classic Chase at Warwick behind Grand National winner One For Arthur before filling the same place in the Eider Chase last time out. Was last of the finishers in this race 12 months ago off a mark of 142 and races off 137 today so isn�����t without a chance, particularly if he can avoid blundering his way round like he often does. 

Benbens – 12yo 10-13 OR: 135 (T: N A Twiston-Davies, J: Mr Z Baker (7))

Was given a mammoth task on his first start for over a year last time out in the Midlands National at Uttoxeter and was pulled up before two out. Should strip fitter for that outing and represents a trainer who knows what it takes to win this race having won it three times in the past. If he can recapture the sort of form that saw him finish a close third in the 2015 running of this race he could run well at a big price. 

Lessons In Milan – 9yo 10-13 OR: 135 (T: N J Henderson, J: J McGrath)

Unexposed nine-year-old who has just the ten starts to his name under rules. Has run a couple of nice races in defeat this season which has seen him remain around the same mark and may just be a couple of pounds too high to trouble some of the better handicapped rivals here. He looks the least likely of Nicky Henderson’s trio to give his trainer a first win in this race. 

Al Co – 12yo 10-13 OR: 135 (T: P Bowen, J: J E Moore)

The only other former winner of this race in this field who landed the spoils back in 2014 at odds of 40/1. Won off a mark of 138 that day and finished a very respectable seventh when attempting to defend his crown off a 7lb higher mark 12 months later. Getting a bit long in the tooth now and hasn’t had the best of preparations after pulling up at Newbury last time out. Clearly loves it round here though and this will have been his target for a long time. 

Another Hero – 8yo 10-13 OR: 135 (T: Jonjo O’Neill, J: A Coleman)

Had been placed in two Listed contests this season before disappointing in the Kim Muir at the Festival. Jumped poorly early on that day and struggled to get into a rhythm thereafter so a line can be drawn through that run. Significantly worse off at the weights with those who finished ahead of him that day and has a lot on his plate here, though if his jumping improves he may come into the reckoning.

Henri Parry Morgan – 9yo 10-13 OR: 135 (T: P Bowen, J: R T Dunne)

Has become a shade disappointing over fences since splitting Native River and Blaklion in last season’s Mildmay Chase at Aintree. Failed to complete twice and well beaten in the other of his seven starts this season and his erratic jumping would be a worry around this course. Trainer won this in 2014 but he will need to rediscover his old form if he’s to figure in this. 

Vintage Clouds – 7yo 10-12 OR: 134 (T: Mrs S J Smith, J: Danny Cook)

Has been a serial bridesmaid over the past two seasons, notching up a run of six second place finishes in seven runs last season and into the beginning of this term. Three starts since that run ended have seen him fall on two occasions, and he appears to make costly mistakes when tiring at the business end of proceedings. For all his talent, those jumping errors would be a major worry and he is easily opposed here. 

Sugar Baron – 7yo 10-12 OR: 134 (T: N J Henderson, J: N De Boinville)

Has done well since making the switch to the larger obstacles and ran a cracker last time out in the Kim Muir at the Festival after being readily outpaced a long way from home. Stayed on brilliantly under pressure to finish a close sixth that day, shaping as if this step in trip will be to his liking. The drying ground will also be in is favour and if he can hold his position better this time around he’s a serious contender. 

Blakemount – 9yo 10-12 OR: 134 (T: Mrs S J Smith, J: H Brooke)

A useful hurdler who has been just as effective over the larger obstacles and loves a test of stamina. Is sure to get that here, handles quick ground and is a sound jumper but his regular pilot has chosen to ride Vintage Clouds and that may be indicative of his chance. Will probably find one or two of these too good and likely to be fighting it out for the minor honours.

Firebird Flyer – 10yo 10-11 OR: 134 (T: Evan Williams, J: T J O’Brien)

Ran well on his seasonal reappearance when second in a Class Two Handicap Chase at Haydock before finishing a well-beaten eighth in the Welsh National. His form has tailed off since those two outings, failing to complete three times before finishing down the field over hurdles last time out. Rather exposed 10-year-old whose best form comes on a softer surface than what he will encounter here and it’s hard to see him winning this. 

Dawson City – 8yo 10-11 OR: 133 (T: P Gundry, J: W Hutchinson)

Another who has made a habit of finding one too good in his races to date. Finally got off the mark over fences last time out, though it remains up for debate whether he would have won had Regal Flow not come to grief at the third last when holding a length advantage. Finished second in the Sussex National earlier in the season and has some decent form over staying trips but needs soft ground to be seen to best effect and has a lot on his plate here.

Trustan Times – 11yo 10-10 OR: 132 (T: M Walford, J: J Greenall)

Broke a long losing run dating back to 2012 last time out on only his second start for this yard. Hasn’t run over fences since he was pulled up in the 2015 renewal of this race but the return to chasing shouldn’t be an issue and he may improve again for that run. Finished a close third in this race in 2014 and although he is entering the twilight of his career he remains a talented individual and one that can’t be ruled out. 

Portrait King – 12yo 10-9 OR: 131 (T: P Griffin, J: C O’Farrell)

Another of the Irish raiders who is much more accustomed to making the trip over than his compatriots having run in Britain 14 times in his career. An Eider Chase winner all the way back in 2012, he loves running over these marathon distances and the four miles round here is sure to suit. Looked better than ever when finishing third in the Topham over the National fences last time out, but that was only 15 days ago and being a 12-year-old this may come around too soon for him. 

Cogry – 8yo 10-9 OR: 131 (T: N A Twiston-Davies, J: Jamie Bargary (3))

Ran a solid race at Ffos Las on Monday and it’s unusual to see him line up again so soon after what, on the face of it, looked a hard race. Has fallen five times in his career to date including four times over fences so isn’t one to rely on. Nevertheless he is a very capable staying chaser on his day and was in the process of running a mighty race when falling at the fourth last in the 2015 running of this race. Won’t be far way if granted a clear round but it remains to be seen whether he’ll be good enough to win a race of this calibre off his current mark.

Alvarado – 12yo 10-7 OR: 129 (T: F O’Brien, J: B Hughes)

One of the most popular horses in training having been placed in two Grand Nationals as well as finishing runner up in this race last year. Tough and reliable sort who represents a trainer enjoying by far his best season to date, but his most recent form suggests his age may be starting to catch up with him. Never landed a blow when pulled up in the Kim Muir at Cheltenham last time out and it’s a big ask for him to win this at the grand old age of 12. 

Gone Too Far – 9yo 10-7 OR: 129 (T: D Pipe, J: Michael Heard (5))

Pulled up in a weaker affair at Ludlow on his most recent start and his form prior to that doesn’t exactly set the world alight. The trip is a big unknown having never raced beyond three miles and his trainer will be hoping that brings about the necessary improvement. His conditional jockey Michael Heard takes 5lb off and he will relish the drying ground but they look to be the only things in his favour and he will have to produce a massive career best to be involved in the finish here. 

Father Edward – 8yo 10-6 OR: 128 (T: D Pipe, J: David Noonan)

Has improved significantly since switching from hurdles to fences despite only registering one win over the larger obstacles to date. Ran creditably when finishing mid division in the Kim Muir at the Festival and then again at Aintree next time out in the Topham where he finished ninth. Although he looks the pick of David Pipe’s two runners, he has it all to do on all known form and it would be a massive shock if he were to win this.  

Man With Van – 11yo 10-5 OR: 127 (T: P Griffin, J: S W Short) (7)

The last of the Irish trio who also happens to be the biggest price. That may be due to the fact that he last tasted success back in 2014 and hasn’t looked like troubling the judge on any of his outings so far this season. Moved yards in February and his new trainer gave him a spin over hurdles on his latest start where he was a well beaten eighth of 13. Likely to come on for that run, but was pulled up in this race last year and hard to see him faring any better 12 months on.

VERDICT

Only one horse has won this race off a weight bigger than 11-3 since the turn of the century and that was Grey Abbey in 2004. He was an Aintree Bowl winner who also finished fifth in a Gold Cup and the only horse in this field with a similar level of form in the book is FINE RIGHTLY. He has run in top races throughout his career and finished ahead of some classy rivals when third in the Irish Gold Cup last term.

Nicky Henderson looks to have a strong hand this year with both Sugar Baron and Premier Bond remaining unexposed over fences. The latter arrives here in good form off the back of a cracking run in the Kim Muir at the Cheltenham Festival whilst the former shaped as if this step up in trip will eke out further improvement.

Vicente and Al Co are bidding to become the first dual winners of the race since Androma in 1985 and the former appears to have the best chance of doing so. He somehow found a way to win after blundering his way round here last year and the Paul Nicholls-trained eight-year-old would be in with a serious chance of a repeat success if he can iron out those jumping errors.

Another Hero and Shotgun Paddy also need to brush up on their jumping but have plenty of ability and can trouble the selection if getting into an early rhythm. One who looks tailor-made for this race is Southfield Royale and he would have a massive chance if running up to the form he showed as a novice chaser last season.

Nothing down the bottom makes much appeal but Trustan Times looks to have been laid out for a third tilt at this race and he can sneak into a place. 


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