A bumper ten races on ITV this Sunday afternoon, held back twenty-four hours given Saturday’s funeral of HRH Prince Phillip, the Duke of Edinburgh.
Matt Hulmes from Betfred TV marks your card
The action caters for everyone – with five flat races from Newbury, including Classic trials and competitive handicaps, and five from Ayr, including the Scottish Grand National no less.
A few newcomers and once-raced horses clash in the opening maiden, so evidence is thin on the ground. There is already two pieces of standout form to focus on though, courtesy of Derab and Snow Lantern.
Derab chased home Craven runner-up La Barrosa on debut at Ascot, while the royal racetrack also hosted the first outing of Snow Lantern, who was not far behind Zabeel Queen.
She went on to finish fifth in Group 1 company on her final start. These look like the two to focus on unless the market speaks in favour of any of the newcomers.
Just the six go to post for the opener at Ayr and tactics could be all-important here. Grand Sancy was very free last time when leading over two and a half miles, and the drop back to two suggests they may let him bowl along in front.
He will have King D’Argent for company under Harry Skelton who has won three from four over fences, falling on the other outing.
This pair may set the race up for the others, and I am taking a chance on Return Ticket. He has never quite hit the heights he promised as a youngster, but has won twice this winter, including easily in a match at Sedgefield three weeks ago.
He is 3lb lower than when fourth at Musselburgh on New Year’s Day in a good handicap, and will be suited by a good pace at the minimum trip. Brian Hughes is on board as he tries to retain his Champion Jockey title, which is under severe threat from Harry Skelton.
The Group 3 John Porter Stakes looks an absolute cracker with just 4lb separating the top five on ratings.
DEJA was very unlucky not to win at Royal Ascot and followed that excellent run by winning the Old Newton Cup at Haydock. He was well beaten in the Ebor, but I always forgive any horse a poor run at York as it does not suit some. He runs well fresh, and the booking of Ryan Moore (above) also catches the eye.
Euchen Glen had an unforgettable season last year, landing the Old Borough Cup and a pair of Group three contests, one over this track and trip. Perhaps he had done too much when well held in the November Handicap, and there are a few who may have improved past him over the winter.
Al Aasy and Without A Fight are a pair of lightly-raced four-year-olds who look sure to improve again this season over middle distances, while Outbox looks an excellent purchase for just 16k guineas, having already won more than that in two starts for Archie Watson and Hambleton Racing.
Tyson Fury won two starts either side of a twelve lengths beating in the St Leger and is considered, while Kipps carried plenty of my cash last season and always ran into the frame in top handicaps without getting his head in front.
He has a bit to find on the figures, but stays the trip well and always runs his race.
A very competitive novice handicap chase here, and I suspect the winner may well have an eye on a return next year for the Scottish Grand National itself.
After the exploits of Emmet Mullins with The Shunter this season, lots of eyes will be on his Pilbara. He has just a runners-up effort to his name after five starts over fences, and was a well beaten favourite at Galway in October.
Good ground suit him though, and the chances are conditions could see plenty of improvement from the six-year-old.
Marown has course figures of 1131, although all his efforts have come on soft or heavy ground, so he needs to prove a sound surface suits. He was a good second at Haydock back in February and was getting on top of Dipper winner Messire Des Obeaux at Wetherby, when that one was pulled up late on.
I’m taking a chance FIVE STAR GETAWAY hasn’t finished improving just yet. He has rattled off a hat-trick of wins with the minimum of fuss at Wincanton, Sandown and at Haydock, but has been clobbered by the handicapper for making him look silly.
Another 15lb hike for an effortless win on Merseyside demands more but he has only had eight races, half of them over fences, with his only defeat coming over an inadequate two miles against Allmankind at Warwick.
There is no knowing his ceiling and the step up to three miles could unlock further improvement for the shrewd Christian Williams’ stable.
Informateur could be the danger for the in-form Sue Smith team having won nicely at Haydock last month. He steps back up to three miles but has won on decent ground, and could be an each-way player.
The Fred Darling is a recognised 1000 Guineas trial although you must go back to Wince in 1999 to find the last filly to do the double, and a huge field of seventeen are set to head to post for this year’s renewal.
Alcohol Free won at Newbury on debut before taking the Group 1 Cheveley Park Stakes at Newmarket on her final outing. In between those two efforts she was beaten by Happy Romance at Salisbury, before reversing the form handsomely at Newmarket.
Happy Romance will be more at home on this flatter track having won the Super Sprint here last year and at York in August, before scoring in the G3 Dick Poole at Salisbury. There is a stamina doubt about seeing out the extra furlong here, though.
Isabella Giles won a G3 and G2 as a juvenile before finding the Fillies’ Mile too much on her final start. She was an early season 2yo, as was Dandalla who won the Albany and Cherry Hinton last summer before finishing behind Alcohol Free and Happy Romance in September.
Wild Iris and Zaajirah are two filles who won their all-weather debuts in good fashion and represent leading connections, but I am siding with LUCID DREAMER.
Roger Charlton (above) had Love Is You finish third in the Nell Gwyn on Wednesday, so will have a handle on the 3yo fillies. I was really taken with Lucid Dreamer’s win over track and trip in September. She jumped out and made all on debut, showing her professionalism, and despite being awkward at the start on her second outing, she was held up in a field of three and quickened up smartly to win as she liked.
The form does not amount to that of the some of her opposition but it was a race Roger Charlton won with Quadrilateral and she went on to finish third in the 1000 Guineas, so this filly must be held in high regard. She is an each-way shout at a price around the 10/1 mark.
The Scottish Champion Hurdle looks another fantastic contest this year, with ten slick handicap hurdlers heading to post.
MILKWOOD is a horse I must stick with after some stellar efforts. He was so unlucky not to win at Newbury in November when a melee in front of him cost him many lengths two flights from home.
To be only beaten two lengths at the line was infuriating, and he was well beaten back there next time in the Betfair Hurdle. He did not jump with his usual fluency then, but showed at Cheltenham that it wasn’t his running when hitting the front over the last in the County Hurdle, just to be run down by subsequent Grade 1 winner Belfast Banter and class act Petit Mouchoir.
It was an honourable third, best-placed of the British, and quick ground over two miles off a decent pace are ideal conditions for Milkwood to shine.
There is a question as to where the pace comes from if Voix Du Reve does not turn up after his good effort on Friday. Plenty like to be prominent though, and I cannot see this being run at a crawl.
Calico represents the Skeltons, and he is unlucky not to be unbeaten in three hurdle starts. After cruising to victory at Ludlow on heavy ground, he found only the useful Cape Gentleman too good in the Dovecote before winning easily again at 1/4f at Warwick.
He is another who will want a good pace to aim at, but I prefer Milkwood’s experience.
I cannot discount Tommy’s Oscar either, who capped a fine season when scoring easily at Kelso three weeks ago for a fourth victory. The Ann Hamilton yard is operating at a massive 34% strike rate this season, twelve winners from their thirty-five runners, but this is the quickest surface Tommy’s Oscar will have faced, which just tilts the scales in favour of Milkwood for me.
The Greenham Stakes has an illustrious roll of honour with the likes of Frankel, Kingman, Muhaarar and Mohaather among its winners in the last decade.
Alkumait won the G2 Mill Reef Stakes here in September before being well held in the Dewhurst at Newmarket. That run was too bad to be true and was put down to the soft ground so I expect a much better performance on Sunday afternoon.
His fellow Shadwell inmate Mujbar was also a group winner at Newbury as a 2yo, landing the G3 Horris Hill, but the form of that has been let down badly since and both his wins were achieved with plenty of cut in the ground.
Nando Parrado won the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot and trainer Clive Cox is hopeful he can develop into a Guineas colt. He was a 150/1 winner at the Royal meeting and showed it was no fluke when runner-up in a pair of Group 1’s subsequently, although was a well-beaten second when last seen in October.
The Lir Jet has a stamina doubt about him at seven furlongs, having won the Norfolk Stakes over five at Royal Ascot, and was well beaten when last seen in the Breeders’ Cup Mile.
The selection here is CHINDIT, who won the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster in September in impressive fashion and is another who can be excused a below-par run on soft ground at Newmarket in October.
A less undulating track may also suit him better as he was unbeaten going into the Dewhurst, and is taken to make a winning return for the in-form Richard Hannon (above) team.
Only the four runners go to post for the Future Champions Novices Chase over two and a half miles.
Paul Nicholls (above) has won the race three times in the last nine years and relies on TAMAROC DU MATHAN here. He has only found Shishkin too good in three chase starts and won very nicely at Kempton last time in the G2 Pendil Novices Chase. He has largely been kept to decent ground, and this test should suit.
He is officially 10lb behind Allmankind on ratings, but Dan Skelton’s novice has to prove that the extra half a mile will suit. He will try and make all as is his usual MO, but he’s been a lot more restrained of late which does give hope he will see it out.
It is a fair old question mark though, concerning his stamina, and he had a hard race in the Arkle five weeks ago.
Malystic may unsettle Allmankind at the head of affairs and looks to have a nice future over fences. His only defeat over the larger obstacles, no disgrace whatsoever, was at the hands of Grade 1 winner Protektorat. This pair however might just set it up for Tamaroc Du Mathan, who can extend Paul Nicholls’ good record in the race.
The Spring Cup is one of the day’s big betting races, with eighteen runners going to post in a competitive handicap.
MATTHEW FLINDERS is a horse who did us a couple of good turns last season, winning at Doncaster twice and running admirably at York and Sandown. His two lesser efforts can be attributed to an easing of the surface, and champion jockey Oisin Murphy (above), who was on board for his first victory, is a positive booking – as is the drop back to a mile for this strong-travelling horse.
It is a race though littered with many chances, as you would expect. Danyah was the gamble of the Lincoln but was too keen in the early stages and found himself on a wing, so did well to finish fourth. He runs off the same mark here.
Troll Peninsula showed the benefit of a winter break when taking his form to a new level by easily winning a novice contest at Kempton under a penalty eighteen days ago. He could be let in lightly off a mark of 88, but has not been missed by the market for Roger Varian and Andrea Atzeni.
Raeeq went off favourite for the Balmoral Handicap on Champions Day when finishing fifth, and finds himself 5lb higher here, while Imperial Command arrives on the back of two all-weather successes under Elisha Whittington, who clearly gets on well with the 4yo.
Johan kicked off last season with a course and distance victory and has won on his last two seasonal reappearances, so is respected, although he may just be in the grip of the handicapper at present.
Of those at bigger prices, I may have a little each-way play on HMS PRESIDENT too. He was very consistent last season without getting his head in front, and is just 4lb higher than when a close second over an extra two furlongs here last August.
A fast-run mile should suit and Hollie Doyle, who is a master of well-timed runs, is the ideal partner to get the best from him. Trainer Eve Johnson Houghton has started the season well, too.
3.35 AYR – The Scottish Grand National
The starting place when looking for the winner of the Scottish Grand National is for progressive staying novice chasers who look well handicapped. The Ferry Master, Dino Boy, Mighty Thunder and Irish raider Mister Fogpatches are the four who have had six or less runs over fences and may have plenty of improvement in them.
The Ferry Master has won both starts over three miles, including at a stiff Kelso, and ran admirably twice over half a mile less. He represents Scottish trainer Sandy Thomson, who also saddles Dingo Dollar, and importantly has good ground winning form.
His stable companion is the mount of champion jockey Brian Hughes (above), and made a winning stable debut at Newcastle following a switch from Alan King – and was second at his meeting three years ago.
Mighty Thunder beat Dino Boy in the Edinburgh National and followed it up with an excellent second in the Midlands National at Uttoxeter. He has plenty of hurdles experience but just the five starts over fences, and looks sure to build on that.
He is up 5lbs though and Tom Scudamore, who rode favourite Cloth Cap in the Aintree version last week, takes over from 5lb claimer Blair Campbell who suffered a hand injury in a recent fall.
Dino Boy comes here fresher having not run since that twenty-length defeat at Musselburgh, but he did win the Borders National at Kelso earlier in the season, a victory that sees him 15lb higher here.
Mister Fogpatches is an interesting Irish challenger for Pat Fahy off a low weight. Like Dino Boy he races from 1lb out of the handicap, and has the very modest strike-rate of one win in twenty-three starts. However, he has been second on three of his five starts over three miles, and third on another. A stamina test on decent ground could bring out a bundle of improvement from the 7yo, and a market check is advised.
Another novice of note, although a very experienced one, is SOLDIER OF LOVE for Paul Nicholls. He has had thirteen starts over fences but is still technically a novice for this season. He was pulled up when last seen, although soft ground may have been an excuse for that, and he was cleaning up over the summer on decent ground at the likes of Bangor and Newton Abbot.
He was not beaten too far by National Hunt Chase winner Galvin at Cheltenham in October and although this is a different test, he likes decent ground, stays well, and can cap the season for champion trainer Paul Nicholls under Sean Bowen.
Aye Right has been consistent all season and quite rightly holds the favourite’s tag after placed efforts in the Ladbrokes Trophy, the Skybet Chase, and the Ultima at the Festival. He runs off the same mark as Cheltenham here, is two from two at Ayr, and has the services of regular pilot Callum Bewley who was forced to miss the Festival ride.
Sam’s Adventure will not fail in the stamina stakes for Brian Ellison, having won the Eider Chase at Newcastle over four miles seven weeks ago. All his best form is in testing conditions so he needs to prove himself on the going, something that is not an issue for Vintage Clouds.
He won the Ultima under Ryan Mania at Cheltenham, and is 7lbs worse off with Aye Right for seven lengths, so there should not be too much between the pair. It was fifth time lucky for him at Cheltenham when scoring last month, and this is his fourth tilt at the Scottish National. His best effort was when finishing third in 2018.
A busy Sunday, with lots to look forward too. The very best of luck, and enjoy the action.
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