By Andy Stephens
Aye Right is the clear favourite for the Scottish Grand National at Ayr on Sunday and nobody could begrudge him victory after a string of fine efforts this season.
However, the star of Harriet Graham’s eight-horse yard has been on the go all season long and finds himself near the top of the weights, which is quite something when you consider his only win over fences came in a match at Newcastle 15 months ago.
I can see him running well, but again coming up a bit short in a race where there has been no clear favourite win so far in this century.
Four of the past five renewals of the feature have been won by runners chalked up at 40-1, 25-1, 14-1, 33-1 and 25-1. It can be that kind of race, coming as it does at the end of the campaign on what is usually drying ground.
Underfoot conditions might not be so quick this time because there is scope for more additional watering on Saturday. Perhaps that will mean extra reserves of stamina being required.
Soldier Of Love, a novice, and Vintage Clouds, who turned the clock back when winning at Cheltenham last month, were also on my radar but neither have been missed in the ante-post market.
A final field of 23 has been declared and the five on my shortlist are as follows.
Trainer: Lucinda Russell. General odds: 25-1
He’s long looked capable of winning a big staying prize over fences and the Scottish National is tailor-made for him.
The 11-year-old, a staying-on fifth two years ago, is lower in the weights than when running screamers at the Cheltenham Festival in 2019 and 2020, and he was not disgraced in the Welsh Grand National on his penultimate start when his usual hold-up tactics were no help to him in a renewal where the leaders simply did not come back.
Big River was well-fancied for the Eider next time on the strength of that run but, unfortunately, suffered an atrial fibrillation, a problem he suffered once before in 2018.
Connections briefly toyed with retiring him but the problem quickly corrected itself and so he’s back for more. Lucinda Russell reported on Thursday, via a Zoom call organised by Great British Racing, that she herself had ridden him that morning and that he was in great form, perhaps never better. She also touched on the fact that his jumping, which has betrayed him on occasions in the past, has been much efficient this term.
Trainer: Michael Scudamore. Odds: 25-1
The ten-year-old has been well-beaten over hurdles on his past two starts but he simply seems much more effective over fences. And in any case the same was applicable to Al Co before he landed this prize at outlandish odds in 2014.
There’s been nothing wrong with Some Chaos’s runs over the bigger obstacles this campaign, which include a quite valuable success at Kelso plus a creditable fifth in the Badger Beers Silver Trophy at Wincanton.
His best form is away from the mud and he’s hinted more than once that long distances could unlock further improvement. And in common with 14 of the past 15 winners he will have less than 11st 4lb to shoulder.
Trainer: Iain Jardine Odds: 25-1
The trip is the question mark but the ground will help, he's got no weight (10st 2lb) and is fresh, having been off since New Year's Day.
I can see Conor O'Farrell lobbing along on the hooded grey at the back of the field before trying to creep into contention.
Cool Mix's form over shorter certainly entitles him to plenty of respect. His efforts in the first half of the campaign included an emphatic defeat of Sky Pirate in the Bobby Renton at Wetherby, plus a close third in the Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle when he stuck at it over three miles.
Decent ground seems important to him and he's a sound jumper. Bar the trip, he ticks plenty of boxes.
Trainer: Pat Fahy. Odds: 14-1
He’s one of only two possible Irish challengers – the other is Eurobot for Noel Meade – and will have to run from 1lb out of the handicap as things stand.
The seven-year-old novice also still has something to learn about jumping, but he’s completely unexposed and his record points to goodish ground being a plus.
Mister Fogpatches also caught the eye when fourth in a €40,000 contest over an inadequate 2m5f at Leopardstown last time, when a faller at the final fence did not help his cause. That form was given a boost when Livelovelaugh, the runner-up, went one better in the Topham last week.
Trainer: Lucinda Russell. General odds: 12-1
I’m surprised this novice is a double-figure price because he’s a thorough stayer who arrives in the form of his life.
He won a couple of novice events in the mud at Hexham in the first half of the season and relished moving up in trip when winning the Edinburgh National by 20 lengths at Musselburgh in early February.
Mighty Thunder ran even better when beating all bar the likeable Time To Get Up off a 10lb higher mark in the Midlands National at Uttoxeter last time and a 5lb rise for that efforts looks fair enough.
The eight-year-old seems effective on all types of ground and Russell issued an upbeat bulletin today, adding that Tom Scudamore was on standby to ride should regular rider Blair Campbell not be back from injury.Tote+ provides the biggest and best pool-betting payouts. Customers who bet on Tote.co.uk or via the Placepot app now receive at least a 10% bigger payout on winning Tote bets.
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