Following hot on the heels of the Grand National at Aintree, the Scottish equivalent run over 4m at Ayr provides another highly competitive test of stamina and jumping ability (3.45pm, Saturday).
This year, all but seven of the 32 runners are in the handicap proper and those out of the handicap are carrying just 1lb, 2lb or 4lb more than their long handicap weights, so the race will really take some winning.
Tony McCoy (pictured) said earlier in the week that he wouldn’t be riding Catching On (14/1), who has the lightweight of 10st 3lb, but that shouldn’t be a reason to dismiss Jonjo O’Neill’s seven-year-old out of hand.
The Milan gelding fell at the eighth fence in the Midlands Grand National at Uttoxeter five weeks ago, but had previously been one of the easiest winners of the season when absolutely hacking up by nine lengths in the Devon National, over 3m6½f, at Exeter on his previous start. He has an extra half a mile to travel and is 15lb higher in the weights in a better race here but, such was his superiority at Exeter, he must be on any shortlist.
Interestingly, in the same interview, McCoy also said that he wouldn’t ‘be riding something for the sake of it,’ so his decision to take the ride on Benvolio (16/1) suggests that Paul Nicholls’ eight-year-old isn’t without a chance. The lightly raced son of Beneficial was tailed off when pulled up before four out in the Grand National Trial at Haydock in February, but had previously just been touched off by Emperor’s Choice in the Welsh National over 3m5½f at Chepstow over Christmas. He has his stamina to prove over an extra three furlongs and remains 6lb higher in the weights than at Chepstow, but is another to take very seriously indeed.
Lie Forritt (16/1) was pulled up before three out in this race last year and is 8lb higher in the weights, but has been in excellent form this season, winning three of his four starts. He is now an 11-year-old but his head defeat of Harry The Viking (25/1) in the Grand National Trial at Haydock was approaching his best effort ever and he should have little to fear from Sandy Thompson’s 10-year-old on 3lb better terms.
Last year’s winner Al Co (16/1) also returns for another crack after failing to negotiate the first fence in the Grand National at Aintree last Saturday. He also jumped slowly in rear when pulled up in the Becher Chase over the National fences in December but, while his subsequent placed form over hurdles was inconclusive, he must have some sort of chance off a 5lb higher mark than last year. Certainly, trainer Peter Bowen has been in decent form of late with a 7-18 (39%) strike rate in the last 14 days.
The other distance winner in the field Milborough (20/1) appears to have improved since joining Ian Duncan from Tim Vaughan in December and recorded a career-best effort when winning the Eider Chase at Newcastle eight weeks ago. He is 10lb higher in the weights in a better race this time, but clearly has an abundance of stamina and merits close examination.
Scottish Grand National Betting Tips Verdict
- Notwithstanding Tony McCoy’s preference for Benvolio, it is hard to forget the ease with which Catching On sauntered clear at Exeter on his penultimate start so, even though the handicapper has had his say, our Scottish Grand National betting tips advice is to back CATCHING ON each-way at best odds of 14/1 with Bet365, Sky Bet or Paddy Power. All three of those bookies are paying out on the first five places.