Above: 10 times champion jumps trainer Paul Nicholls saddles favourite Vicente and Betting.net’s selection Silsol in Saturday’s Coral Scottish National at Ayr
Betting.net’s Picks for the 2018 Scottish Grand National
Coming just one week after the Grand National at Aintree, the gruelling Coral Scottish Grand National at Ayr keeps the staying chasers very much in the spotlight and provides another challenging puzzling for punters to unravel.
Having an extended four miles to cover and 27 fences to negotiate, this is a thorough test of stamina for the field of up to 30 runners. The weather forecast though is set fair through to the weeknd so it seems fair to assume that the current ‘soft’ ground will dry out and good to soft or even good conditions are likely to be the order of the day. We can expect them to go a strong gallop all the way, exposing frailties in any non-stayers.
The obvious starting point in the quest for finding this year’s hero is the Paul Nicholls-trained Vicente (10/1 with Ladbrokes), the superb winner of the last two renewals of this race (see video below). There are no stamina doubts for him, of course, he clearly loves the track, and he races this year off a mark just 4lb higher than when beating the gallant Cogry by a neck in last year’s renewal. Despite his higher rating he is now 5lb better off with Cogry (25/1 with BoyleSports), a winner at Cheltenham in October, second in the Classic Chase at Warwick, but disappointing in his last three outings.
A fine runner-up on his seasonal return at Cheltenham in November, Vicente unseated Sam Twiston-Davies before halfway in the Welsh National in January and hated the heavy going when pulled up at last month’s Cheltenham Festival. But with the ground now turning in his favour and the sun on his back, there is every chance that Vicente will make a bold bid to become the first ever three-time winner of this great race.
Vintage Clouds (10/1 with BetBright) runs in the same colours as Vicente and has long looked the right type for this race. He has been consistent at a good level throughout the last couple of seasons, stays well, and was a respectable seventh in last year’s renewal. Fourth in January’s Welsh National and a fine third behind Coo Star Sivola at the Cheltenham Festival last month, Sue Smith’s charge gives owners Trevor Hemmings a very strong hand in Saturday’s feature.
Neil Mulholland’s Doing Fine (14/1 with Paddy Power) is another prominent in the betting and with good reason. He appears to have been trained specifically with this race in mind, being a horse who has to have decent ground to show his best form. He hasn’t been seen since December when fourth to Benbens in the London National at Sandown and connections have patiently waited for the better weather to provide suitable underfoot conditions. Dropped a helpful 2lb since that Sandown run, Doing Fine, who goes well fresh, has very solid claims.
Cumbrian-based trainer Nicky Richards has never won this race, although his father, Gordon Richard won it twice; Playlord took the title in 1969, and Four Trix in 1990. In Looking Well (20/1 with BetStars), Richard appears to have a strong candidate despite the horse having thrown away a winning opportunity last time out in the Edinburgh National at Musselburgh. Tackling a marathon trip for the first time, the nine-year-old appeared set for victory as he approached the last still going strongly and with a length advantage. But inexplicably, Ryan Day’s mount suddenly swerved violently to the left, unseating his rider and handing victory on a plate to his closest pursuer, Full Jack.
It’s hard to say what caused that shock exit as the horse had shown no sign of wayward tendencies in previous outings, so assuming it was a one-off he has a fine chance here off an excellent racing weight of 10st8lb, less Day’s 3lb claim. 20/1 each-way with BetStars looks fair value.
SILSOL (25/1 each-way with Betway), however, is marginally preferred as our main each-way recommendation. Trained like Vicente by the excellent Paul Nicholls, the nine-year-old has been a fine servant to connections and looks to have a proper chance of grabbing a good slice of the £215,000 prize money on offer having fallen to a very attractive handicap mark of 142. Fifth on heavy ground in the Welsh National in January off a 5lb higher mark (see video below), he got no further than the first fence at Haydock a month later in the Grand National Trial run in bog-like conditions, then ran a brave race five weeks ago when fourth to Regal Flow in extremely testing ground in the Midlands Grand National at Uttoxeter.
While he handles heavy ground, Silsol is also capable on a much better surface as he proved at Wetherby in October 2016 when beating none other than subsequent Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Nativer River off level weights in the Grade 2 West Yorkshire Hurdle. With only seven starts over fences to date it’s fair to say that Silsol might have more to give over the larger obstacles, so at 25/1 each-way he rates a sporting choice to take advantage of a potentially favourable mark.
Two others worthy of consideration are Colin Tizzard’s Sizing Tennessee and Neil Mulholland’s The Young Master, stable companion of the aforementioned Doing Fine. Sizing Tennessee (20/1 with Bet365) ran a blinder on his first start in a marathon contest when third to Rathvinden in the National Hunt Chase over four miles at Cheltenham last month and there could be more improvement from him at this trip if recovered from those exertions.
The Young Master is indisputably well handicapped on his best form of a couple of seasons ago when he won the former Whitbread Gold Cup at Sandown off a mark of 148. 16lb lower now and coming into this race on the back of a much improved effort when a staying-on sixth in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Chase at the Cheltenham Festival last month – his first start since undergoing a wind operation to aid his breathing – The Young Master may well belie his current 20/1 odds (with 188Bet) under top amateur rider Sam Waley-Cohen.
Written by Paul Alster
Paul Alster has been part of the British and international racing media for more than three decades working as a race commentator, TV/radio presenter, journalist, betting correspondent, SP returner, and form analyst. He’s always sought out overpriced runners in handicap races, a quest that excites him as much now as it did at the start of his career.