Scottish Grand National

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Photo: John Grossick

The first blog for a few weeks and possibly the last one focused on jumps as the flat season starts to get underway. Overall, and despite being in a bit of deficit, it has been a decent NH season for my blog with some decent winners put up on here. Hopefully I can keep the trend going on the flat. I do think I’ve got the field for the Scottish National down to two. Have a read below and good luck.

3:55 Ayr The Scottish Grand National

A race that I’ve had a good few winners of, notably VICENTE last year and MERIGO’s second win. Without doubt it’s a cracking race and the ground should be on the good side by the off. You need a smooth travelling horse in this race and a horse that has proven stamina. Generally, those horse with higher weights on their back don’t do as well, although VICENTE bucked the trend last year. I still think a lot of the smarter horses are up there and will a good race. ARPEGE D’ALENE is Nicholls best chance and he runs as if he could stay 5 miles. If he is on song and crucially jumps well he has a cracking chance. Last year’s winner just hasn’t looked the same horse this year and I have to look over him. However, Trevor Hemming’s second string VINTAGE CLOUDS has a great chance for me. He has run consistently all year and most definitely stays. He went into my notebook when third to VIEUX LION ROUGE at Haydock and it was the way he stayed on that suggested he would benefit from a marathon trip. He was again looking to stay on at the festival when he fell. The ground and the track should suit. My main bet though is on DANCING SHADOW. He won the Edinburgh National at ease at Kelso in February on good ground. He was never travelling at Cheltenham and it makes me wonder if they ran him like that to limit his mark for this. He was so smooth at Kelso, his jumping tidy and he travelled like a dream. That style will suit him in today’s race and if he is in the top 6 or 7 coming round the bend I would fancy him to stay on up to the line. He has a good jockey booking with Nick Scholfield. The last time Victor Dartnall sent him this far north he won. He has another cracking chance.

2:45 Ayr Scottish Champion Hurdle

You most definitely need a bit of class to win this despite it being a limited handicap. Some of the horses running in this are handicap class whereas others are certainly graded horses. Of the handicappers TOMMY SILVER will love the ground, I put him up at Cheltenham but he wasn’t good enough, yet he won well last week and carries penalty. CHESTERFIELD finally came good last time too and is worth considering. On to the graded types and the likely winners; WINTER ESCAPE was my selection at the festival and he ran a great race from his lay off. That will have set him up nicely and he could quite easily take this. I’m not convinced by his price though, there has to be more value. SCEAU ROYAL is another smart horse and has two wins on good ground under his belt this year. The last twice he has come up against some top competition in YANWORTH and BEVEUR D’AIR, running creditably. This is easier and he also has an apprentice taking a massive 10lbs off his back which potentially put his graded class down to a weight of the handicappers. I can’t sniff at that or at the price when writing. He is a class horse and could run a big race.

3:40 Newbury Spring Cup Handicap

PACIFY was a horse I followed on a couple of occasions last year. He has been running at a mile and a quarter but has also won over this trip. He really caught my eye when doing some of his best work in the closing stages at York last May when beaten by NAYEL. He went up 3lbs for that and something had to be amiss in the Wolfreton Handicap when he was last out. He never ran a race and was tailed off and hasn’t been since. I think he is a class above this and could turn into a Listed performer this year. He is a huge price based on last year’s exploits and it could be worth following him regardless of today. What a price he is though. I can see him going from the front and using that extra bit of stamina he has.

4:05 Racing UK in HD Handicap Thirsk

SCUZEME went straight into my notebook when running on last time out at Nottingham over 5f. He returns pretty quickly off the same mark today in a better grade. He looks a decent sort and the way he ran on when he got going suggests he has the speed for this. He just couldn’t get out in time to peg back the winner. Hopefully today he can get out and go on and stamp his authority on this.

Selections:

£2.50 ew DANCING SHADOW 3:55 Ayr 40-1 William Hill

£2.50 ew VINTAGE CLOUDS 3:55 Ayr 16-1 William Hill

£5 win SCEAU ROYAL 2:45 Ayr 9-1 Paddy Power

£5 win PACIFY 3:40 Newbury 28-1 SportingBet

£5 win SCUZEME 4:05 Thirsk 3-1 William Hill

Staked £360

Returns £332.50

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Aintree – Day 2

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Not a brilliant first day on the betting front with non of my selections getting near, the only bonus was the positive I put up for BIG FELLA THANKS, what a cracker he ran. The two top hurdlers of the season proved again how awesome they are; I couldn’t have had TEA FOR TWO with anyone’s money but fair play to a smart horse. Ive had a quick study of the big one and Ive got a few on the shortlist so far. These are :

MORE OF THAT

PERFECT CANDIDATE

ONE FOR ARTHUR

First let’s get Friday out of the way. Here are my selections.

Alder Hey Hurdle 1:40

What a competitive hurdle to get things going. NORTH HILL HARVEY is a worthy top weight and he was smart when winning the Greatwood earlier in the season, you have to forgive him his latest run at the festival, but he has a lot of weight. HAWK HIGH catches the eye as he has a very good record here. He also won the Fred Winter a few years ago. He is 8lbs higher today but has won on 2 out of 3 appearances here and is worth a look. I’m opting for DASHING OSCAR though, I fancied him at Uttoxeter the other week but he was withdrawn. He is a strong traveller and has a couple of good wins under his belt and I’m hoping for a big run.

Crabbie’s Top Novices Hurdle 2:20

MOON RACER is interesting; I thought they were crazy to go for the champion hurdle and that proved to be correct, he could run a big race here. MOUNT MEWS and HIGH SECRET are both improving and have done nothing wrong to date but I’m going for my festival selection RIVER WYLDE to run another good race. He ran well in the Supreme and I think the hustle and bustle of the race will have brought him on more.

JLT Melling Chase 3:25

GODS OWN won this last year and will run another strong race and will be pressed by FOX NORTON who will no doubt bounce off in front. He has got better and better and finished the Queen Mother so well. Im opting for another Henderson runner (my theme today!!!) though. JOSSES HILL has always had a touch of class and as yet he hasn’t quite come to the fore. He’s been dropped a few pounds and will appreciate the ground and he has won and come fourth here before; I just have a feeling!

The Topham 4:05

The warm up for tomorrow and a cracking little race on its own. EASTLAKE won it last year and if he turns up could run well again and the top weight GO CONQUER ran a cracker last time. Nicky Henderson has a cracking recent record in this and GOLD PRESENT ran very well in defeat at the festival. Keep your eye on ULTRAGOLD at a huge price as he could run a big race. I’m opting for a bit of Bond though!! I have had O O SEVEN in my notebook for a while and I’m convinced he has the winning of one of these big handicaps. He ran well at the festival behind MITE BITE over further than this; the drop back in trip is in his favour and he is a sound jumper and nice mover. If he can avoid any trouble he has a great chance. I’ve backed THOMAS BROWN a few times this year but I cant put anymore money on him after two poor shows; watch him win!!!

Selections

£5 win O O SEVEN 4:05 Aintree 20-1 Coral

£10 win RIVER WYLDE 2:20 Aintree 9-4 William Hill

£2.50 ew DASHING OSCAR 1:40 Aintree 18-1 Ladbrokes

Blog standings

Staked £360

Returns £332.50

Aintree day one – A dedication to James Graham

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Ive had a few weeks off the blog from Cheltenham. It takes a fair bit of study to write these blogs and after the hectic week of the festival I just needed some time to recharge my batteries. The flat season will be in swing soon and I will keep blogging throughout that too, hopefully bringing you winners in both formats of this awesome sport. I am dedicating this blog to my good friend James Graham, he regularly reads this and I saw him at the weekend to ask him if he had won by following my advice for the festival. He did with Willougby Court but denied to be greedy and put it in a win treble when the others didn’t win. He also didn’t see my tweet about Friday’s selections and missed Pacha Du Polder and Penhill. So, James, this one is for you today – I hope there’s a winner for you!! 🙂

Manifesto Novices Chase 1:45

This is a cracking little race to kick the festival off. FRODON comes into this bang in form and he has looked very good the last twice. He is clearly suited by good ground and he will make sure it is a decent pace. TOP NOTCH looked to be unlucky at the festival, he made a mistake two out which looked like it cost him the race as he was staying on well at the end. If he reproduces that tomorrow he will be hard to beat. CLOUDY DREAM ran a cracker in the Arkle but that looked to be well above what he has produced previously and he was fortunate as CHARBEL fell and the rest of the competition weren’t much good in my opinion. I’m going for a cheeky each way on MAX WARD. I was very impressed with the way he went away from the field over this trip last time at Kempton. It wasn’t a hard race and the market leaders have had some tussles of late and he will love the ground and despite this being a step up he looks very progressive. We will certainly find out, but 20-1 with Paddy Power is a huge price!

Doom Bar Juvenile Hurdle 2:20

DEFI DE SEUIL was very smart at the festival and has been all year, he will take some pegging back in this and looks the best Juve nile we’ve seen this year. I like the look of the Queen’s horse at a bigger price though. He has swerved the festival for this, will love the ground and looked smart when winning at Musselburgh last time. DIVIN BERE ran a beauty at the festival and Im fascinated to see how he gets on against the favourite.

Betway Bowl Chase 2:50

CUE CARD is the favourite for this but I have to take him on. He fell again in the Gold Cup and that will have taken its toll, the ground will also be too quick for him in my opinion and he is a definite lay. EMPIRE OF DIRT was lots of people’s banker for the festival but UN DE SCEAUX jumped them to death, he will not have to take anything like that on in this and will appreciate the better ground and I think he will get compensation here.

Betway Aintree Hurdle 3:25

Buveur D’Air was my first winner at the festival and I cant see anything beating him tomorrow, no bet, just watch and admire.

Foxhunters Chase 4:05

PACHA DU POLDER came good for me at the festival and helped me to a very profitable return with PENHILL. He ran a great race and should be thereabouts again under the same rider. This track should suit him more and with a steady run race over a shorter distance it should play even more to his strengths, I do expect them to ride him much more handy. BIG FELLA THANKS catches the eye in opposition at a cracking price.

Betway Red Run Handicap Chase 4:40

RAVEN’S TOWER has to have a cracking chance in this off a light weight. He is 1-1 here and won off a mark just one pend lower than today (OR138) when beating KEEL HAUL and PARSNIP PETE. The latter is only 2lbs better off but needs to make up 9 lengths, not going to happen. My selection has other smart form, he was beaten in a good race taken by POKER SCHOOL off a 5lb higher mark  after coming third to ULTRAGOLD. He made a bad mistake early on last time that took him out of the race. He has had time to recover and I think will run a big race.

Selections

£5win RAVEN’S TOWER 4:40 Aintree 12-1 William Hill

£5win EMPIRE OF DIRT 2:50 Aintree 5-2 William Hill

£5ew MAX WARD 1:45 Aintree 20-1 Paddy Power

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Staked £340

Returns £332.50