A week after the thrills and spills of Aintree and it was Scotland’s turn to host their Grand National on what is a huge year for the country sporting wise with the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow being the icing on a very tasty cake indeed.
Today it was the big day for National Hunt racing in Scotland as a field of top quality horses turned up from all over the UK, the two big names that over the border equine wise were My Tent Or Yours and Tidal Bay,both gave the day a real sense of gravitas that a meeting like this deserves.
Also the Channel 4 trailer was parked up using the course as their principle base for the day.
It was an eight race marathon card,a mix of competitive handicaps,A Grade 2 Novice Chase,The Scottish Champion Hurdle and some useful events with horses for the future.
1.30 The Clyde And Solway Systems Limited Racing Excellence ‘Hands And Heels” Finale Handicap Hurdle,Class 3,2m4f,11 flights,4yo+ (0-130)
A field of eleven went to post but it was all about one horse here as Silsol under series winner Jack Sherwood who kicked on with around a mile to go and put the rest under the kosh, not a fluent jumper he nearly ran out before the second last but some correction got him home nicely in the end to give trainer Paul Nicholls a nice winner, Final Assault and Titus Bold got the minor money for the home team.
Both horse and jockey are going places, Silsol could go chasing next season and his jockey Jack Sherwood could be getting some nice rides too,he is one to follow.
2.05 Arcadia Consulting William Dickie & Mary Robertson Future Champion Novices Chase (The Vulmidas Cup) Grade 2,2m4f,17 fences,5yo+
Only the five here but it was a two horse race going out into the country,the favourite was Valdez who came here with three wins to his name before getting outpaced in the Arkle,however he had to play second fiddle to Eduard from Nicky Richards’ yard, Valdez jumped out to his right a few times which cost him ground but here he was comprehensively beaten as Eduard travelled and stayed well, Fourth in last years Mersey Novices at Aintree he will get three miles in time and could begin next season in the Old Roan at Aintree, Valdez will be better back over two miles in my view.
It was good to see Nicky Richards get a big winner here and with Eduard he has finally got a worthy successor to Monets Garden.
2.40 The QTS Scottish Champion Hurdle,Ltd Hcap,Grade 2,2m,9 flights,4yo+
A race that was complemented with the participation of My Tent Or Yours, the Champion Hurdle runner up in March was here to regain winning ways but he had to give away lots of weight, carrying 11-10 the next best was Court Minstrel, on 10-8 and in this field of eleven only three were in the handicap proper.
Below,My Tent Or Yours pre race.
Once again My Tent Or Yours continued to play about during the race which was set at a decent pace by Barizan who loves tear along, MTOY was wearing new headgear and ear plugs to help him but he was still pulling during the race and knocked a few hurdles but despite this he travelled well and turning for home looked like he was toying with the field
Down the straight we had three horses over the last with MTOY leading but then had to fight off the challenge of Court Minstrel on the run in then from out of the clouds came the mare Cockney Sparrow who was fifth in the Mares Hurdle at the Festival behind Quevega to beat them both under young conditional Dean Pratt (7), passing the line he looked across as if he could not believe it just happened and began to point at the mare to suggest it was all her.
Cockney Sparrow looks to love Ayr,she won here on Ayr Gold Cup on the flat under Oisin Murphy, she could well end up back on the flat and is continuing to enhance her paddock value.
As for My Tent Or Yours he is still buzzy when racing,it has been suggested running him on the flat too,I would certainly give it some thought, a nice Group Two over 1m2f could work or even go over 1m, it could be worth stepping up in trip or go over fences next season.
3.15 Scotty Brand Handicap Chase,Class 1,2m,12 fences,5yo+
A useful looking race with horses that have been busy over the winter but it was no rest for winning horse Le Bacardy who was a runner up on Friday and rather than head back home he stayed overnight and took the scalp of top weight Desert Cry in a driving battle after the last fence.
Upsilon Bleu kept on for third but needs a bit of respite from the handicapper before he wins again.
3.50 Coral Scottish Grand National Handicap Chase,Grade 3,4m110yds,27 fences,5yo+
The big race of the day with twenty nine facing the starter,the top weight being the evergreen and ever popular 13yo Tidal Bay who came here after unseating at the Canal Turn last week before nearly taking out Across The Bay as they set out on the second circuit in the National.
Also turning up was the enigmatic Battle Group who refused to race last week and although he eventually did set off a fence behind after a false start he was pulled up after seven fences and was retired, pity he can’t take on Mad Moose is a match!
Due to Tidal Bay taking part only the top eleven were in the handicap proper
Below,Tidal Bay in the parade ring.
So to the race and there was lots of market support for Roalco De Farges while the Scottish support was firmly in the camp of Green Flag for Lucinda Russell who has had a cracking season.
As the race progressed the early pace was set by Lackamon with Baile Anrai,and they certainly took no prisoners as they went over the fences,during the race we had a few incidents,Rigadin De Beauchene hit a ditch badly and was pulled up,Midnight Appeal took a tumble and Battle Group was simply Battle Group.
Turning for home as the field got whittled down lap after lap we had Al Co,Green Flag,Godsmejudge and Trustan Times all holding the best chances but at the last it was Al Co for Peter Bowen and Jamie Moore who lead by around five lengths from Green Flag who weakened and on the run in was being hunted down by Godsmejudge and Trustan Times who were bearing in on him but despite jinxing on the run in he just held on to a deafening silence from the crowd on this 40-1 shock result, Merry King who probably wants five miles plugged on for fourth.
Only nine got round in the end,old Tidal Bay was seventh and his best days are now behind him surely,he owes nobody anything and deserves an honourable retirement.
This was Al Co’s first run in 104 days,he did win a 3m Chase at Chepstow back in October,the race which used to herald the start of the jumps season proper for traditional jumps fans,he was rested since being tenth at Doncaster over hurdles back in December,he could be aimed at the big one next year, Godsmejudge is definitely a spring horse and showed his old zest here while Trustan Times could also be Aintree bound.
4.25 The Ayreshire Hospice Making Today Matter Handicap Hurdle,Class 2,2m5f110yds,12 flights,4yo+ (0-155)
Another useful horse off the Paul Nicholls production line here with Brother Du Berlais hacking up here off 132,he looks a classy horse and will be even better over fences but I would love to see him at Haydock in November in the valuable Fixed Brush Hurdle on Lancashire Chase Day although it is entirely possible he will go over fences.
Rumble Of Thunder kept on in second but they were all outclassed by a more than useful horse in the making.
5.00 Weatherbys Private Banking Novices Handicap Chase,Class 2,3m1f,19 fences,5yo+
A wide open and competitive event with some developing staying chasers in the field,they went a good clip early which took its toll on a few such as Pinerolo who would want it very heavy,Presented ran poor and Bit Of A Jig needed a lot of cajoling by AP and even his resilience and pushing couldn’t help him before he was pulled up.
At the business end it was finally one for the home team with the Hawick trained Samstown who got sent off favourite showed the punters they were right as he dealt a 19 length thrashing to King Of The Wolds who was stepping up in trip and could be worth another try at it,Kentford Legend was third and looks like the handicapper as got a hold of him.
Samstown will end up being aimed at the decent staying events next season,he could be ideal for the Becher Chase or something like the Borders National at Kelso but he is consistent and stays well.
5.35 The Jordan Electrics Ltd Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race,Class 3,2m,4,5 and 6yo
An ok but probably not a top class bumper, all the talk was about the Nicky Henderson newcomer Saint Charles in the JP McManus colours who was bought for £140,000 at the sales after winning his maiden Point at North Carlton in February, he travelled ok but couldn’t pick up when needed and came in 11/15 but he is only a 4yo and will be better in time when he has to do some jumping.
Miles To Memphis got the better of Irish raider The Unsub at the business end,Apache Prince who was third here over CD last year was third again and Speical Wells was fourth.
The first two look decent enough and will make good novice hurdlers next season,Miles to Memphis will show his true ability over 2m4f in my view and The Unsub is one with a fair future ahead of him.
Some excellent racing at Ayr then on a busy day for Scottish sport with the Scottish Cup semi finals taking place over the weekend at Ibrox.
Was very impressed with Eduard in the big Novice Chase,he is a horse going places and will be the apple of Nicky Richards’ eye for next season.
The National was a typical park course long distance chase and long may they continue, Jamie Moore has had a grand season and this is a nice little extra bonus for him and he is no doubt looking forward to getting back on Sire De Grugy in two weeks time.
My Tent Or Yours still has his problems but ran a good race in defeat,it’s great to see horses like this in handicaps giving away weight.
All in all a well run meeting, I don’t like to criticise courses but one thing missing for me was a pipe band like you get here on Gold Cup Day in September as that would be the icing on the cake.
Next up for me is the Easter Saturday meeting at Haydock with the finals of the Jockey Club Grass Routes series.
Below, Plenty of boxes parked up.
Below, Coming into the course.
Below,Police horses coming by.