Horse Racing

Spotlight on the Scottish Grand National

Steve Mullington
2017-04-21
Just a fortnight after the conclusion of the Aintree Grand National our attentions are now focused on one of the highlights of the Scottish sporting calendar, the Scottish Grand National, and as always it has attracted some of the finest staying chasers in the UK & Ireland.

Just a fortnight after the conclusion of the Aintree Grand National our attentions are now focused on one of the highlights of the Scottish sporting calendar, the Scottish Grand National, and as always it has attracted some of the finest staying chasers in the UK & Ireland. A maximum field of 30 runners line up on Saturday afternoon at 3.55pm.

Not quite as far as the Aintree version, the race is run over a distance of approximately 4 miles and 110 yards (6,538 metres) and 27 fences and is open to horses aged five years old or over.

Trends and statistics

There are plenty of pointers available over the past ten years which are all worth bearing in mind. You are looking for horses that fit most of the following criteria:

  • Won over 3 miles or further

  • Posted their career high RPR of 140+ in a long distance chase

  • Won a Class 2 or 3 chase in last 18 months

  • Won a chase worth £15,000 (or placed in a chase worth £45,000+)

  • Run in 10 to 22 chases (or placed in the 4 mile novice chase at Cheltenham Festival)

  • Course winner

  • Bypassed the Aintree Grand National

  • Horses that finished in first seven in this season’s Hennessy Gold Cup do well

  • Ran in the Grimthorpe, 4m NH Novice Chase or Somerset National last time

  • Trained in Great Britain (ideally by N Twiston-Davies, P Hobbs or A King)

  • Irish trained runners do not fare well. Last winner in 1869!

  • Aged 7 to 9 (won 6 of the last 10 renewals)

  • Carrying 10st 6lb or less

  • Officially rated 146 or lower (ideal range 134 to 139)

  • Horses carrying a penalty often do well

  • Run 3 to 6 times this season, 2 had not won a race during the campaign.

  • Finished in the first 6 last time

  • Posted an RPR of 140+ in one or all of last 3 chase starts

  • No favourite in the last ten renewals has been successful although four have been placed (including joint and co favs).

  • Eight winners had their preceding start in either March or April, of the exceptions one ran in the last week of February and the other in late December.

The absolute key ten year statistics:

  • Official Rating no greater than 146 (10/10)

  • Won over at least 3 miles (10/10)

  • Ran in a Class 2 or 3 race last time out (10/10)

  • Aged between 8 and 11 years old (8/10)

  • Carried no more than 10st 9lbs (8/10)

  • Top 2 finish during last 2 starts  (9/10)

  • At least 10 previous races over fences (8/10)

  • Last raced within the previous 43 days (8/10)

  • Not won a chase above Class 2 level (8/10)

  • Between 4 and 6 starts that season (8/10)

The main contenders

Following the defection of Yala Enki this week, Warren Greatrex's Missed Approach and Paul Nicholls’ Vivaldi Collonges head the weights.

A season's-best performance in the National Hunt Chase puts Missed Approach in with a great chance. Beaten just three lengths by Tiger Roll at Cheltenham he should put up a bold show despite his weight.

Scottish trainer Sandy Thomson will attempt to keep the Scottish Grand National trophy north of the border on Saturday with the eight year-old Seldom Inn.

The horse won a Listed race earlier in the season at Kelso and will be ridden by Grand National winner Derek Fox. What an amazing double that would be should he win?

There are two past winners in the line-up - Vicente, who won 12 months ago for the Nicholls yard, and Peter Bowen's 2014 champion Al Co. Nicholls also saddles Arpege D'Alene.

Vicente made an early exit at the first fence in the Grand National at Aintree but Paul Nicholls takes some consolation in the fact that his race was over quickly.

Vicente’s success in the Scottish Grand National last year set Nicholls up to be the champion trainer after a late surge from Willie Mullins. This season, even if Vicente bags the £120,000 prize pot, it probably won’t be enough to catch Nicky Henderson for the title.

Southfield Royale was travelling well in the Kim Muir before falling at the half-way stage. Neil Mulholland's former Graded winner has looked a little out of sorts this season but he is quietly fancied by connections to run well in this marathon test.

Ante-post favourite Premier Bond is among three runners from the champion trainer “elect” Nicky Henderson stable along with Lessons In Milan and Sugar Baron.

Premier Bond ran well in the Kim Muir to finish third under Sam Waley-Cohen and prior to that had won two novice chases. On his first time out over fences he was unlucky to be up against his talented stablemate Might Bite and he appears to have a decent profile going into this race.

Sue Smith’s Vintage Clouds was a faller in the Ultima Handicap Chase last month at Cheltenham but he had previously run a huge race when third in the Grand National Trial at Haydock Park and is nicely weighted in this contest. Sue Smith almost tasted success in this race when Aurora’s Encore was beaten just a head in 2012.

Conclusion

A maximum field of thirty runners but it is fairly easy to rule almost half of them out due to their rather poor and suspect form this season.

Vintage Clouds has been a “nearly horse” all season and thoroughly deserves a change of luck. The seven-year-old has been contesting some top quality races this season and is ably assisted by Danny Cook this Saturday. Owner Trevor Hemmings missed out on an Aintree Grand National victory this season but a Scottish version might just come his way via one of his three runners.

Selections: Vintage Clouds, Lessons In Milan and Vicente.