Sky Sports Racing presenter Alex Hammond previews the key action from the weekend and imagines Nigel Twiston-Davies clinching the Scottish National with a lightly run rookie.
I don’t know about you, but it’s a bewildering time of year. We haven’t quite finished the jump season, in fact, we have two more Nationals to enjoy, and the flat season is happening on the start line in stages.
That doesn’t mean I don’t like it, quite the contrary. Spring is my favorite time of year. The garden is starting to come alive and there is warmth in the sun.
The flat season is pretty linear with the season when you think about it. Last week we were all busting out the shorts and flip flops, and this week it’s the Arctic again.
It was wonderful to be in Doncaster in the warm sunshine and while I was up there I also learned that the term ‘Sunny Donny’ was coined by the late Sir Terry Wogan. You never stop learning. Well, Sir Terry was right on this occasion and it was glorious.
Time to dig up another phrase from the past that my mom reminded me of this week. Never throw a punch until May is out; he will see you well. It’s time to dig up the big coat again.
Looking for value each way in the wide open Scottish National
More on those Nationals then, well one of them at least, Saturday Great Coral Scottish National. One thing that we are often guaranteed in Ayr in April for this marathon handicap pursuit is decent ground and the surface is just on the right side of the right side for that four mile.
Christian Williams is making a habit of winning these handicap chases and he has the top two in the market with Kitty’s Light Sky Bet favorite 6/1 and Win My Wings 13/2.
If ever a horse deserved to win a big one, it’s Kitty’s Light. He was unlucky not to win the Bet365 Gold Cup last spring and has been knocking on the door ever since. He had to settle for second place behind his stable mate Cap Du Nord at Kempton in February and it is another of his traveling companions he has the most to fear in earn my wings.
As Kitty’s Light enters new territory on this four-mile journey, Win My Wings has already proven its endurance by winning the Eider at Newcastle last time out. She was lifted 8 pounds in weight for the win, but her trainer shrewdly booked Irish amateur Rob James who claims seven of those pounds.
He is certainly up to the task after winning the Kim Muir at the Cheltenham Festival a few seasons ago.
Speaking of Irish visitors, horses trained in the Emerald Isle should always be respected. Pat Fahey sends 8/1 third seed stormy judge finished for the race.
He is not on display having had six starts over fences and steps into uncharted territory on this trip. That shouldn’t be a problem as he’s a full brother to Mister Fogpatches who won over three miles and seven furlongs for that stable and finished third in the Scottish National last season. So, enough to recommend his younger brother who bids to do better.
Although he has many references for the race, the right ground would not necessarily be ideal, but despite this, I would like to keep him by my side. The coach also sends more than 14/1 shot fashion history.
So strong claims for horses trained in Wales and Ireland but a Scottish winner would be hugely popular and Iain Jardine saddles 17/2 shot Fresh mix (5th last year and now 6lbs lighter in weight) and Sandy Thomson is responsible for another of the protagonists in last year’s 4th The ferry master, who has a 9/1 chance and is now 5 pounds lighter in the weights and had wind surgery. Lots to like there.
Alan King saddled the winner in 2013, so he knows what it takes to lift the prize and is sending two to this race, including Major Dundee. He wears the colors of the late Trevor Hemmings whose silks were brought to success in 2016 and 2017 by Vicente. Major Dundee is unexposed and difficult to assess on her first start beyond three miles.
Dan and Harry Skelton team up with Ashtown Boy who is priced the same as Major Dundee at 10/1, and as this horse is also a novice. This is a late maturing type that should thrive on marathon trips.
The wolf represents coach Olly Murphy and he is 14/1 with Sky Bet. He seemed to stay the trip well trying it for the first time at Musselburgh in February on his last start and good ground won’t be a problem either.
You may remember Fantastic had a thrilling battle to win a race at the Winter Million weekend at Lingfield in January and then finished seventh in the Ultima at the Cheltenham Festival last month.
Lingfield’s victory came in extreme conditions, but he’s also efficient on better ground and with just five runs on the fences under his belt, there should be more to come.
He is attempting the journey for the first time, but his manager Nigel Twiston-Davies has his side in fine form with a 30 per cent strike rate and at 12/1 he could offer one-way value with Sky Bet paying seven places.
ask a bee (22/1) was hard to catch, but a trip like this should be fine and he’s versatile on the pitch. Trainer Fergal O’Brien is having his best season and jockey Connor Brace is also in fine form.
It’s super competitive as usual and you can claim for several of the riders. However, with these extra spots on offer, I can’t wait to go with Fantastikas to fill one.
On the same card I like Barrichello in the Coral Scottish Champion Hurdle. If there’s been a team in more consistent form this season than Donald McCain, then I don’t know who they are.
This horse has really pulled through the hoops this season and his Good Risk At All win at Warwick in January looks good. It is 15/2 with Sky Bet paying four places in this two-mile handicap hurdle.
He will be ridden by elected champion jockey Brian Hughes, who I hope will have already succeeded on malystique in the first race for trainer Peter Niven. Malystic is the 5/1 second favorite with Sky Bet offering cash back if you are second or third in this handicap hunting.
Well, in true April fashion, it’s now snowing here at home, so I’m relieved it’s a Sky Sports Racing studio stint for me on Saturday. The thermals tidied up, until Windsor on Monday! Now, if the thought of Windsor doesn’t make you feel summery, nothing will.