A fresh horse with a low weight is seemingly required for the Ayr marathon
Saturday’s Scottish Grand National over a gruelling 4m1f is typically competitive with 30 horses set to go to post and bookmakers going 10/1 the field.
Irish raider Gallant Oscar is market leader across the board and it’s easy to see why as his third to the The Druids Nephew at the Cheltenham Festival is a decent piece of form and, as that was his first run in seven weeks, he’ll be fresher than most at this late stage of the season. Bought by JP McManus since his last run, he will carry just 10st1lb – too low for AP McCoy to ride – and he promises to stay this far. However, horses coming on from Cheltenham have a modest record in this race and the drying ground is another worry as connections have said that ease in the ground is important to him.
Broadway Buffalo and Sego Success also arrive here on the back of decent showings at the Festival and, while they’re respected, I’d much rather back a horse who sidestepped both Cheltenham and Aintree. There’s plenty to choose from but the one that appeals most from the bottom of the weights is novice DROP OUT JOE. A winning pointer, the seven-year-old has mixed it with the best since winning on his chase debut at Carlisle back in October, with creditable defeats behind King’s Palace and Irish Saint.
There was better to come, though, as he found only Wayward Prince too good on his handicap debut in Doncaster’s Grimsthorpe Chase, with some good horses in behind, and he seems sure to appreciate the step up to this marathon trip. Novices have an excellent record in the race with four winning in the last decade from a small sample, and the fact he’s out of the weights – 2lb wrong thanks to the presence of top weight Sam Winner – has been no barrier to success previously. Indeed, results show that you would have been better backing such horses than those higher up the racecard.
He should go well under Gavin Sheehan with the ground no worry (has won on good), but there’s no harm in having a couple running for you in a race of this nature and the other one to attract my eye is Jonjo O’Neill’s CATCHING ON. He’s another lightly-raced type with just five chase starts under his belt and he’s won two of them, most recently the Devon National over an extended 3m6f. He took that race apart winning by an eased down nine lengths and jumping well in the process, and his early uncharacteristic fall in the Midlands Grand National last time can be seen as a blessing as he arrives here a fresher horse.
Both his chase wins came on very soft ground but he strode out well on “good” ground when successful over hurdles last season, and he is too has no weight to carry. He’s down to be ridden by Dougie Costello and that’s fine, but with McCoy’s intended mount Benvolio being scratched due to the ground there’s a chance the champion jockey may switch to the selection. That’s just a hunch and he’d struggle to do 10st 3lb, though having AP doing the steering certainly wouldn’t harm his chances. Either way, the seven-year-old is worth an each-way punt at the current 14/1 with bet365, who are paying out on five places.