Top commentator Simon Holt previews the Scottish Grand National at Ayr and the Spring Cup at Newbury.
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SOUTHFIELD ROYALE, a fresh horse with an excellent chance on past form, is taken to cap a fine season for trainer Neil Mulholland and jockey Noel Fehily, in Saturday's Coral Scottish Grand National at Ayr.
The seven-year-old has run just twice this season, running flat at Doncaster on a belated seasonal debut at Doncaster in late January before falling at around half-way in the Kim Muir at Cheltenham.
However, if one trusts that Southfield Royale is still capable of reproducing some of his efforts of last season, notably a second to recent Betfred Bowl winner Tea For Two at Kempton and a fourth behind the Gold Cup class Minella Rocco and Native River in the Festival four-miler, then he must have excellent claims down 6lb from the time of those efforts.
Indeed, he looks potentially very well handicapped and, with the ground no problem and stamina assured, his chance is compelling provided, of course, he retains that ability.
The other horse on my short-list is VINTAGE CLOUDS, like the selection just a seven-year-old (and two horses of this age group have won in the last four renewals), who has run some solid races in staying chases this season despite falling in two of his last three starts.
Sue Smith's promising grey was only four lengths off the lead when hitting the deck two out in the Ultima Handicap Chase at the Festival last time and was quite a close third when falling three out behind Bristol De Mai and Otago Trail at Haydock in January.
In-between, Vintage Clouds ran another good race at Haydock to finish third behind Vieux Lion Rouge and Blaklion in the Grand National Trial (Kruzhlinin sixth, Warrantor seventh, Vicente ninth) so, with a clean round of jumping, he looks sure to be thereabouts.
Missed Approach and Arpege D'Alene, second and fourth behind Tiger Roll in this year's Cheltenham four-miler, clearly have good chances on their efforts there as does Premier Bond, a creditable third in the Kim Muir, but all of these need to prove they are none the worse for the extreme demands of the Festival.
At Newbury, the Be Wiser Insurance Spring Cup provides it's usual punting poser, but BANKSEA looked a horse with the potential to be better than a handicapper last season and, if that is the case, must go well.
Luca Cumani's gelding has twice run well first time out in the past and, after winning at Pontefract over a stiff mile-and-a-quarter, was narrowly denied in decent mile handicaps at York and Doncaster in August/September.
Favourite for the Cambridgeshire on his final start, he could never land a blow from the possibly the less favoured side of the course in a race which seemed to suit prominent racers.
It will be surprising if Banksea cannot progress further this season and, although Cumani has yet to have a winner this season from just 11 runners, most of them have run well.
Posted at 1310 BST on 21/04/17.
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