In an unusual twist, the £150,000 Scottish Grand National is staged a week before the National at Aintree this year, something that has given trainers a headache.
Many runners come to Ayr having fallen early in the Grand National or, more often, having not made the cut in the first place.
This time around trainers of fancied runners had to decide whether to wait and go for the million-pound race, or to come here anyway and luckily 24 have turned up to make the Scottish Grand National a brilliantly competitive event.
Our six all have chances of sorts, beginning with what would be a very popular scorer for Sandy Thomson.
Although a big price, Hill Sixteen has a very solid each-way chance in this contest.
Still just a nine-year-old and with plenty more to give, Sandy Thomson’s runner has some solid form in the right type of races.
After nearly running down major Grand National hope Snow Leopardess in the Becher, Hill Sixteen recovered from pulling up in the Welsh Grand National to runn a strong fourth at Doncaster. He bettered that when finishing a good second in the renowned Premier Chase at Kelso and is in great form.
Although off the track for a while, Jersey Bean is just the type to attract lots of support when post time nears for this race.
He won a stayers’ handicap at Haydock back in November and it’s fair to assume that his trainer, Oliver Sherwood, believes he is ahead of the handicapper.
He’ll need to be of course, as he’s 5lbs higher in the weights now, but that’s not a weight that would stop him and so it’s now about handling the extremities of this race.
Christian Williams is gaining one hell of a reputation for training horses for various Nationals and the like, with his Kitty’s Light having been the best backed horse in the build-up to the race.
The six-year-old has managed to finish either first or second in nine of his 13 chases to date, three of his four wins coming over three miles or further.
Second in a strong race at Kempton last time, he’s an obvious contender but has arguably been collared by the assessors now.
Alan King’s runner has a great profile. A certain stayer, he is only three runs into his chase career and is seven years old, two factors that tell us he is more than likely to continue his upward trajectory for a while yet.
No significant jumping errors have been noted, he was a winner at Bangor over three miles and was short of room at a crucial time on his last start when narrowly losing out at Newbury.
He’s moving up the handicap only very slowly, certainly not at the rate that he’s actually improving, so there is very little to dislike about his chances at all. Tom Cannon rides.
Very much a strong fancy in many quarters and more than respected here too, Stormy Judge comes over from County Carlow with a major chance.
He’s done all of his racing over fences on heavy ground so far, but so often punters confuse such a fact for a horse wanting that ground when in fact he may improve for conditions in Ayrshire.
Fifth in the Leinster National last time and a winner before that, Stormy Judge is most definitely one to watch and has the assistance of Danny Mullins up in the saddle.
Win My Wings
A second on the list for Christian Williams, this time a horse who is on a hat-trick after winning at Exeter and again at Newcastle in the Eider Chase.
Winning the Eider automatically makes her a contender here, but the race is sure to have taken plenty out of her too making winning again that bit more difficult.
Christian Williams’ Kitty’s Light has a big chance for sure, though is fairly short in the market and for our money has a couple to get past at least.
Stormy Judge remains at a good price overnight despite how well fancied he is, but MAJOR DUNDEE is the one we like best.
Major Dundee has at least 7lbs our six contenders and we know there is more room for improvement from those rated lower. He can reach a new career peak here and hasn’t been harshly treated by his handicap mark.