In recent years this has been a race for the outsider, so we make no apologies for leaving out some big names from our top six including Big River and Vintage Clouds having looked at all the known evidence.
Form, weight, ratings and so many more things have been taken into consideration for this shortlist but despite the effort, the Scottish Grand National remains what it should be and that is frightfully competitive and tough to call.
Whatever happens this is a race for potentially multiple bets and/or each-way wagers, so spread your stakes out carefully. Here’s the lowdown on our chosen half-dozen:
Beware The Bear
The 160-rated Beware The Bear of Nicky Henderson’s yard has led to some contenders running out of the handicap in this, but if recent times are anything to go by, and we don’t take trends too seriously by the way, he is carrying an awful lot of weight in this event to be honest.
That said as a winner at Cheltenham in the Ultima Handicap Chase he clearly stays and is in great form so cannot be totally discounted.
A winner of his last two outings, Jonjo O’Neill’s charge comes into this in fine fettle although given the quality of recent winners of this event we’d like to have seen him prove himself at a higher level and in a more valuable race this season.
His qualities are obvious though and as a stayer clearly going places he makes the list, but he may be more of a Grand National horse for next season in truth. Place chances nonetheless.
It’s been a tough enough season for the nine-year-old gelding, not necessarily because of the number of runs he’s had (5) but because he’s been highly tried in valuable races the last three times.
He won the four mile Eider Chase at Newcastle last time out but despite having gone up 7lbs in the handicap for that win, it’s exactly what we wanted to see; a proven quality stayer and one who is only getting better as time goes on.
Conditions should be fine for Harry Skelton’s mount and it’s hard to see him not making the frame in this race.
Only a seven-year-old, Alan King’s runner has had just the 8 chase races so while improvement over time is obvious, the negative factor is that he may just lack the required experience for this race.
Form-wise he’s fine having finished a good second in a £50,000 handicap chase at Doncaster over 3m2f, but stepping up from that is not guaranteed with a near maximum field challenging him over 27 fences although he’s one for the future in such races for sure.
Michael Scudamore’s runner is clearly far too big a price for this race at a general 40/1 going into the weekend having finished a decent third to Tiger Roll in the Cross Country at Cheltenham back in March, his first run for 15 months following a problem.
If the bounce factor is overcome we can expect him to come on from that impressive run and he’s even been dropped a couple of pounds in the handicap, though his mark of 137 is still higher than his last winning handicap rating.
Although it’s always a worry when a contender has unseated his rider in his last race coming into a contest like this, Red Infantry definitely has the form and the potential for improvement to take a hand here having won a good race at Haydock and finished an excellent second in the London National at Sandown Park. Tom O’Brien rides for Ian Williams.
Beware The Bear carries a lot of weight, Cloth Cap would have perhaps rated higher had he come into this with a proven record in more valuable contests and Kingswell Theatre needs to prove the bounce factor is not a problem after his long absence, so while there are plenty of contenders as usual there are enough negatives to curb enthusiasm somewhat.
While it’s hard to keep winning when the handicapper puts weight on your back, it’s good to see a horse come into this sort of race with ticks in all the right boxes and that’s the case with Caroline Bailey’s CROSSPARK who has plenty going for him. He rates a fair each-way bet today.