AURORAS Encore remains on course to take his chance in the Coral Scottish Grand National on Saturday despite heavy rain at Ayr yesterday.
Connections of the Aintree hero confirmed their intention to send a strong team, among which will be the 11-year-old, who will bid to become the first horse since Red Rum in 1974 to win the English and Scottish Nationals in the same season. Trainer Sue Smith’s husband and assistant, Harvey, said: “They are all in good form and they are all going. It soon dries up this time of year. They are all running, no problem.”
The going at Ayr was described as soft, heavy in places, yesterday afternoon after 20 millimetres of rain. There was some standing water on the track but that was expected to drain away. Although further showers are forecast overnight, it is expected to be dry up to and including Saturday.
“We have got no problems. We could have raced today but it would not have been pleasant,” said acting clerk of the course Harriet Graham. “We are calling it soft, heavy in places. We are forecast about five millimetres in showers tonight and into tomorrow, then dry. We will be fairly testing ground but totally raceable. The fresh ground will be good for Saturday, but it’s just not going to be for quick-ground horses. We do have a really nice piece of fresh ground not raced on this year for the National. Right down the inside it is fresh and it has taken the rain really well.”
Meanwhile, Scottish trainer Jim Goldie is expecting Hawkeyethenoo to carry on where he left off last year when he makes his seasonal reappearance in the Connaught Access Flooring Abernant Stakes at Newmarket today. The gelding has been a tremendous servant to the Renfrewshire trainer, winning the Stewards’ Cup last summer and ending the campaign with a fine second to Maarek in the Qipco British Champions Sprint Stakes at Ascot in October. “He’s wintered well and had a nice break. His last run at Ascot was probably a career best, so if he comes close to that, he’ll run a big race,” said Goldie. “If the ground is good that would be perfect. He runs well fresh, so I’m expecting quite a big run.”
In the Craven Stakes, Richard Hughes expects Toronado to confirm last season’s form with Dundonnell when the pair clash for a second time this afternoon.
While only four go to post in the 2000 Guineas trial, the handicapper has only 4lb between them all. The Richard Hannon-trained Toronado was unbeaten in his juvenile season, accounting for Roger Charlton’s Dundonnell in the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster.
At the time Hannon was confident he had finally found himself a genuine Derby contender but Hughes believes he has been showing so much speed on the gallops that the Guineas may suit him more.
Hughes said “I’d be very surprised if Dundonnell beat me. I think my lad has improved.”