Scottish Grand National to hit ‘new heights’

Simon Clare: 'Strong partnership'. Picture: Getty
Simon Clare: 'Strong partnership'. Picture: Getty
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CORAL have promised to take the Scottish Grand National to “new heights” after signing a new five-year extension with Ayr Racecourse to sponsor the famous race until at least 2019.

The bookmaking chain first sponsored the race in 2007 and, since then, it has grown not only in prestige but also in value with this year’s renewal carrying £210,000 in prize- money – the second richest jumps race run on a Saturday in Britain behind only the Crabbie’s Grand National. In 2013, the Coral Scottish Grand National was also the fourth biggest betting race of the year.

In 2012, the Coral Scottish Grand National Festival was elevated to be the main site for Channel 4 coverage on the day. This year more than 1.3 million viewers watched the April contest on television, making it one of the most viewed horse races of 2014.

Announcing the extension, Simon Clare, Coral PR & Broadcast Director, said: “The Coral Scottish Grand National is now one of the most watched and most bet on horse races in Great Britain and the race continues to go from strength to strength.

“We have forged a strong and dynamic partnership with Ayr Racecourse, who are a brilliant racecourse to work with, and are committed to taking this fantastic event to new heights in the years to come.”

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Ayr Racecourse Managing Director David Brown added: “The Coral sponsorship of the Scottish Grand National has become one of the most successful partnerships between a racecourse and a bookmaker in horse racing. The news that it is being extended by five more years is a huge boost to not only everyone involved at Ayr Racecourse but to racing as a whole.

“The Coral Scottish Grand National is one of the iconic races of the jumps calendar with a rich history so it is fitting we have such a prestigious company as Coral as our sponsors.”

The 2015 race will be run on Saturday, 18 April.

At Wincanton yesterday, Bitofapuzzle made a successful debut over hurldes in the Mares’ Maiden Hurdle at Wincanton and could head for a Listed contest at Haydock in two weeks’ time.

Already a winner at that level in a bumper, the six-year-old was sent off long odds-on at 2-13 but she had to work hard to keep her 100 per cent record intact. Bitofapuzzle was pushed hard by Kilronan High and had to be driven out by Noel Fehily to hold that rival by a length and a quarter as she tackled two and three-quarter miles for the first time. The leading duo pulled 24 lengths clear of Dear Darling in third.

Trainer Harry Fry was happy with the performance and has pencilled in the Swift SFM Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at Haydock on 20 December.

“I was very pleased with that. She was a good bumper performer but you’ve got to go and jump and that was the first step,” said Fry.

“She won a point-to-point in her early days but that was good. She did it nicely and hopefully now she will go up in grade for a two-and-a-half-mile Listed mares’ novice at Haydock.”

Polamco gave Fry and Fehily a quick double with a hard-fought success in the Hague Print “National Hunt” Novices’ Handicap Hurdle.

French import Ziga Boy got the better of older rivals to open his British account in the Weatherbys VAT Services Silver Buck Handicap Chase.

At the tender age of five, Ziga Boy was the youngest horse in the field but the Alan King-trained gelding put up a creditable display under 5lb claimer Tom Bellamy to land the feature race on the card. The 3-1 favourite ran on purposefully from two out to defeat Silver Commander by three and a quarter lengths.

Wishing And Hoping (4-1) gave King a double when making a winning racecourse appearance the National Hunt Flat Race in the hands of Richard Johnson.

The Barbury Castle trainer narrowly missed out on a treble when Ronaldhino was beaten a short head by Powerful Action in the Weatherbys Bank Handicap Hurdle.

It was Johnson who forced the Philip Hobbs-trained 5-2 favourite’s nose in front on the line, to initiate a brace for himself.

Nick Scholfield’s decision to go for home at the top of the straight with three fences to jump paid off in style on Chance Encounter (10-1) in the Wincanton Interactive Handicap Chase.

The bold move had the opposition on the back foot and Linda Blackford’s eight-year-old negotiated the obstacles with aplomb to strike by nine lengths from Moonlight Maggie.

Colin Tizzard’s Quite By Chance (3-1 favourite) battled on well to take the rewards4racing.com Amateur Riders’ Handicap Chase.

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