What are the best bets in the Scottish Grand National?
Saturday’s Scottish Grand National (due off 4.10pm) is one of those races that leaves you scratching your head as every year you see talented horses with strong form credentials run bafflingly poor races for no apparent reason. It has also been an absolute graveyard for favourites with none obliging since Paris Pike 16 years ago – there have been unfathomable winners at 25/1, 33/1, 40/1 and 66/1 in the last decade.
That hardly makes you want to bet on the race but there is a familiar pattern that might just lead us to this year’s winner, that being it is extremely difficult to come off the pace. It does happen occasionally as with Al Co a couple of years ago, though even he was close up from halfway, and that effectively rules out the confirmed hold-up horses.
Another major negative surrounds horses who ran at the Cheltenham Festival, with no winner from that meeting taking this in the last 30 years. Given all that then I think we can safely put a big black line through Kim Muir winner Cause Of Causes, who is usually buried right out the back and is disputing favouritism at around the 8/1 mark.
One down and just 29 to go and, to spare you a long drawn-out analysis of all the possible contenders, I’ll cut straight to my idea of the winner – the James Moffatt-trained HIGHLAND LODGE, who is a nice each-way price to boot at bet365’s 20/1 – the Stoke firm are also kindly paying out five places.
Why him? Well, he likes to get on with things for one and, indeed, was prominent for much of the race when winning the Becher Chase at Aintree in early December, with a ‘made most’ form comment against his Cheltenham novice chase victory further back on his CV to back that up. There’s no reason why he should be ridden any differently this afternoon with Henry Brooke renewing the partnership.
Having sidestepped Cheltenham and missed out on Aintree, he is also one of the fresher horses in the line-up. The Grand National had very much been the plan since his Becher win, but his current rating of 137 simply wasn’t high enough to get into this year’s classy renewal. Moffatt would have trained him to the minute for that race and the trainer leaves you in no doubt about his fitness, saying this week: “The horse is very well, he’s in great form with himself and he’s desperate for a race. He’s crying out to run.”
A high-class handicapper when with Emma Lavelle with a peak rating of 143, he rather lost his way after finishing a fine fourth in the 2013 Hennessy won by Triolo D’Alene. However, the change of scenery – Moffatt is based near Cartmel in the Lake District – has clearly done him plenty of good and, furthermore, he looks an ideal type for this contest as he jumps well (the Becher is evidence of that), seems to stay forever and is fully effective on the forecast ‘soft’ ground. What’s not to like really?
Of course, it’s always worth firing a couple of arrows at a race of this nature and I’ve no hesitation in also putting up the Kerry Lee-trained GOODTOKNOW at a bargain 33/1 with BetVictor, who are also paying out down to five places. His rookie trainer has been enjoying a fantastic season with a string of big races already in the bag and she has been getting a good tune out of this progressive eight-year-old chaser, who is on a hat-trick after wins at Wetherby and Taunton, the latest of just 4lb lower. He reportedly wants better ground but has won on ‘heavy’ three times now, so I’m not going to let that put me off.