THE Jumps season is enjoying it’s last hurrah as Ayr hosts the Scottish Grand National on Saturday.
It’s a tricky little card, but hopefully this race-by-race preview can point you in the direction of a couple of winners.
Race 1 – 1.25 Scotty Brand Handicap Chase (Listed Race)
The Skeltons’ have hit their stride again and AZZURI looks very well treated here.
He’s had a wind-op since his poor run at Cheltenham Festival and returns to favoured conditions here.
The seven-year-old is only a pound higher than his latest win and he won well at this meeting last season.
There’s plenty of pointers that he should be the one to beat here.
Lillington has won two decent races on the trot and doesn’t look out of contention here up 5lbs.
A drop to two miles has been hugely beneficial and Tizzard has been back in the winners’ enclosure lately.
At a bigger price, Ozzie The Oscar has to lug round top weight but has form in the book that would wipe the floor with plenty of these.
With Richard Johnson on board you can’t rule him out at juicy odds.
VERDICT – 1. Azzuri 2. Lillington 3. Ozzie The Oscar
Race 2 – 1.55 J & D Pierce Novices’ Champion Handicap Chase
At the risk of repeating myself, I can’t see Dan Skelton’s horse MOLLY THE DOLLY being far away at all in this ultra tight handicap.
She was progressing nicely until beaten last time out at Newbury. But that was behind Grand National runner-up Magic Of Light and she had excuses that day.
She was two from two over fences and will prefer this better ground.
Dandy Dan won handsomely over course and distance last time and Kim Bailey must have had this meeting in his mind a good way out.
He’s only up 2lbs and he’s another that will enjoy the sound surface.
Paul Nicholls had a few winners on Friday and Ibis Du Rheu has more to offer judged on his performances earlier in the season.
He’s fresher than most and by no means handicapped out of things.
VERDICT – 1. Molly The Dolly 2. Dandy Dan 3. Ibis Du Rheu
Race 3 – 2.25 CPMS Scottish Champion Hurdle (Grade 2)
VERDANA BLUE has finally got her conditions again and despite this being a handicap, she can carry 11’10 to victory.
Connor Brace’s 7lbs claim will help as will the quick ground as will the emphasis on speed.
She’s run well when given the opportunity this year and never had a chance in the Champion Hurdle once the rain arrived.
Stablemate Mister Fisher should not be far away whatsoever. He looks very well treated off 145 and will also enjoy the conditions.
Nico De Boinville is on board and his impressive and consistent novice form gives him a massive shout in this.
At a big price Anemoi is worth a sneaky look. Harry Whittington is in good nick and a mark of 135 definitely underestimates him.
VERDICT – 1. Verdana Blue 2. Mister Fisher 3. Anemoi
Race 4 – 3.00 Jordan Electrics Ltd Future Champion Novices’ Chase (Grade 2)
SECRET INVESTOR is a confident selection in this Novice Chase.
Big things were expected of him this season but it hasn’t quite all clicked together as one.
He was much smoother over his fences last time at Wincanton and can use that confident boost back up in class here.
I think Alan King missed a trick with Ballywood. He had a lovely mark for a while now, but that has crept up to 147 without winning a significant pot.
He had to work hard to win at 4-5 last time and this is a different proposition all together.
It should be between the top of those at the betting, but Louis’ Vac Pouch is currently available at double figure prices and one of the outsiders worth a second look.
VERDICT – 1. Secret Investor 2. Ballywood 3. Louis’ Vac Pouch
Race 5 – 3.35 Coral Scottish Grand National Handicap Chase (Grade 3)
I’ve already nailed my colours to the mast here and will be sticking with MORNEY WING at huge odds.
While he might find one or two a tad sharp up the home straight, I believe he’s got a big race in him and his third in the Eider gives him a great shout.
He stays all day and the quicker the ground, it’s almost a case of the better as many will be unsuited by it.
Crosshue Boy is my second string here.
He won well at this meeting last year and will have had this lined up from that point. A few spins over hurdles should have him ready for this.
Sean Flanagan is a serious jockey booking and while conditions might be slightly against him, he’s got a massive chance.
Doing Fine was my cliff horse all of last season and will need all of this trip.
He was fourth in it last season and now one pound lower off the back of a wind-op should go close once again.
VERDICT – 1. Morney Wing 2. Crosshue Boy 3. Doing Fine
Race 6 – 4.10 Ayrshire Hospice Land O’Burns Starlight Walk Handicap Hurdle
My strongest bet up at Ayr comes here. SOLOMON GREY (NAP) wins this.
The Lanzarote Hurdle form always comes up trump and Dan Skelton has kept this seven-year-old fresh since.
This longer trip has helped him as has the better ground. Team Skelton had a stormer on Friday and should keep the ball rolling over the weekend.
Mahlervous is interesting back on a quicker surface. You can put a line through his latest effort and his run prior to that at Kempton gives him a big chance.
Colonial Dreams was backed as if defeat was out the question last time and could make amends here.
He may be better with a bit of cut in the ground though.
VERDICT – 1. Solomon Grey 2. Colonial Dreams 3. Mahlervous
Race 7 – 4.45 Purvis Marquees Racing Excellence “Hands & Heels” Finale Handicap Hurdle
The action begins to quieten down from here on in and these types of races for conditionals I normally steer clear of.
COURT DREAMING is the likely favourite and hard to see past. He’s completely unexposed and made a mockery of his opening handicap mark last time out.
This is tougher and he’s up 5lbs but I can’t find much to take him on with.
Castletown has a sniff off bottom weight and back over hurdles but it is a leap of faith.
The first time visor on Blunder Buss is also interesting and the handicapper has given him a big chance in this.
VERDICT – 1. Court Dreaming 2. Castletown 3. Blunder Buss
Race 8 – 5.20 Procast Building Contractors Ltd Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race
ZULU DAWN’S form behind McFabulous gives him a big shout in this and in a typically wide open bumper is worth an each-way swing.
Not many of these have much experience under their belt and his two runs in decent races are of obvious benefit.
O Connell Street is also of obvious interest for Nicky Henderson who was this five times since 2009.
Keith Dalgleish is brilliant with stable debutants and Artoff is interesting on that account off the back of a second in a point to point.
VERDICT – 1. Zulu Dawn 2. O Connell Street 3. Artoff