Horse racing: Trainers gearing up for Ayr assault
ENTRIES for this year’s Coral Scottish Grand National at Ayr will be published today and trainers are aiming top horses at Scotland’s richest racing prize on 21 April.
Ikorodu Road, winner of the Grimthorpe Chase at Doncaster this month and also a handicap chase at Newbury last Saturday, will be sent on a near 700-mile trip from trainer Matt Sheppard’s Herefordshire yard to attempt to capture the big prize.
Another horse with the £180,000 race as its priority is the 2010 Scottish Grand National winner Merigo, who came second last year and won last time out over the course earlier this month. Owner Raymond Anderson Green makes no secret of the fact this is the race he wants to win again and Ecclefechan-based trainer Andrew Parker should have the horse with the big white blaze in great condition come race day.
Scotland’s leading jumps trainer Lucinda Russell could saddle recent acquisition Red Harbour, owned by the Giles family from Ayr, while leading trainers Paul Nicholls, Nicky Henderson, Alan King and David Pipe are all likely to have runners.
Clerk of the Course, Emma Marley commented : “I am looking forward to these exciting chasers coming to Ayr. It will also be good to see some regular trainers and others who have travelled a considerable distance just to have runners at the Coral Scottish Grand National Festival. The track is in great shape despite a busy season and has had six weeks to recuperate since our last fixture. We are looking ahead to next month.”
The first big race of the new Flat season is the William Hill Lincoln on Saturday, and last year’s winner Sweet Lightning has been taken out of the race, in which 2010 victor Penitent will now carry top weight at Doncaster.
Now with David O’Meara, Penitent was bought for 40,000 guineas by Middleham Park Racing at the Tattersalls Sales in October and was sent to the Nawton handler.
O’Meara also has a strong second string to his bow in Smarty Socks.
Eton Forever, winner of the Spring Mile consolation race 12 months ago for Roger Varian, is this year near the head of the weights for the main event.
Edinburgh Knight, another ante-post fancy, is also set to carry a welter burden.
Godolphin still have two possible runners, Start Right and Man Of Action, engaged, while Cocozza is due to have his first run for Marco Botti. Fury, fifth in the 2,000 Guineas last season, is set to represent Lincoln specialist William Haggas.
O’Meara, who made his mark in no uncertain terms last season, is looking to begin the new campaign the way he ended the last one – by saddling plenty of winners. “Smarty Socks and Penitent will be our two runners, we have a third entry in Mont Ras but he won’t get in (43rd on list),” said O’Meara. “The two horses are very different, Smarty loves firm ground while Penitent likes a bit of cut. One’s a former winner while the other is at the top of his game and now running off 102 and has to improve again. Penitent has been there and done it and has slipped down a bit. Smarty is a hold-up horse whereas Penitent sits handy. Smarty is probably more effective at seven and he needs a strong-run race but he has won over a mile.”
Meanwhile, Red Somerset had little difficulty in restoring his winning sequence in the williamhillbingo.com Jackpot Surprise Selling Stakes at Lingfield yesterday.
Mike Murphy’s nine-year-old had been three-from-three at the bottom level over the course of the last month, but he was extremely slowly away at Kempton last Thursday and never had a hope of getting back on terms with April Fool. Red Somerset was not exactly swift from the gates on this occasion as the 6-5 favourite, but hunted down Slam in the final furlong and won by a length and a half.
There was a fleeting interest in the now 16-times winner, but he was bought in at the auction for 5,600 guineas.
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