What are the best bets at Ayr on Saturday?
The switch of Newbury’s Classic trials card to the all-weather at Chelmsford is to be applauded, but the change of surface makes life even trickier for punters – good luck if you’re betting on it!
I’m happy to give it a miss and concentrate instead on the Scottish Grand National meeting at Ayr, with four of the races being shown live on Channel 4. I’ve already covered the big race elsewhere with a couple of runners Highland Lodge and Goodtoknow – selected for the reasons found here, so let’s have a crack at the remaining three.
The Jordan Electrics Ltd Future Champion Novices’ Chase (2.25pm) has attracted just six runners and they are headed by JLT runner-up BRISTOL DE MAI. A smart juvenile hurdler, he has looked even better over fences this season, winning four of his seven starts, including a Grade 1 at Sandown in February. His run in defeat last time was arguably his best effort to date as the ground had gone against him and it was to his credit that he managed to regain second in the run-in, splitting Black Hercules and L’Ami Serge.
The ground won’t be an issue this afternoon as they’re calling it “soft” with some rain forecast and it’ll be disappointing if he can’t get back to winning ways against inferior rivals, the best of whom may be Harry Fry’s Henryville. He impressed when winning on the bridle at Exeter last time and has just 4lb to find on the ratings, but the selection should still have his measure and the current 11/8 (Hills) seems a fair price (11/10 in places).
The Scottish Champion Hurdle (3.00pm) has been one by some equine stars in the past – champions such as Night Nurse, Sea Pigeon, Granville Again and Alderbrook spring to mind – but having attracted small uncompetitive fields for several years the decision to make it a handicap has given it a huge boost in terms of numbers and 13 are set to go to post on Saturday.
Willie Mullins and Paul Nicholls are responsible for four of those as they leave no stone unturned in their bid for the British trainer’s title, with Nicholls having to play some serious catch-up. Neither of his runners make much appeal, though, whereas Mullins’ Ivan Grozny and Clondaw Warrior look major players. The former in particular must go well as he looks well treated under a 5lb penalty for his Aintree win and will have the services of Grand National-winning jockeyDavid Mullins, who claims 3lb off his back.
However, he has not always been the sort to run two races alike and he might struggle to give 9lb to the locally-trained SHREWD. The six-year-old has been a revelation since finishing well beaten in last year’s November Handicap on the level (typical as he was my tip for that race) and he lines up here chasing a four-timer across both codes, having followed up a couple of hurdle wins at Doncaster and Musselburgh with a victory on the all-weather at Wolverhampton last month.
They key to his success is that he is now settling much better in his races and after his latest win his trainer said there is now knowing how much more improvement he has in him. He also put up this race as his short term target and why not as he’s clearly improving at a rate of knots and his 5lb claiming rider Shane Shortfall has struck up a wonderful rapport with him. He was 161 at the start of the week but he still rates a good bet at half those odds (each-way if you must) with bet365.
Nicholls has stronger claims in the Scotty Brand Handicap Chase (3.35pm) with Solar Impulse, who bounced back to form in no uncertain style when landing the Grand Annual at last month’s Cheltenham Festival. Connections put the improvement (he had been pulled up previously) down to the application of first-time blinkers and better ground. However, while the headgear may work again (far from a given), today’s slower surface is very much against him, and that makes him opposable at odds of around 3/1.
Besides, he’s going to struggle to give 14lb and a beating to the Tom George-trained ALWAYS ON THE RUN, who is on a hat-trick after a couple of Kempton wins. He made all on both occasions and that running style is always preferred here and he rates value for further than his one and a half length winning margin last time, having lost some momentum with an untidy jump at the last.
That may be a blessing as the handicapper could only raise him 4lb for that effort and this progressive six-year-old is almost certainly capable of rating considerably higher than his current mark of 133. He too wouldn’t want the ground too slow but he coped well with “soft” on his penultimate start and his stable continues in top form with a strike rate of 25% (4-16) this month going into Friday’s racing. Take Betfair’s 3/1.
Rons Dream, one of two bets put up for Friday’s racing, won at 2/1 (advised at 11/2) – hope you were on?!
All odds were correct at time of posting.