IN TOMORROW’s Coral Scottish Grand National at Ayr, soon-to-retire champion jockey Tony McCoy goes up against his boss, JP McManus, as he rides in the race for the final time.
When news broke late on Wednesday that McManus had snapped up the Tony Martin-trained Gallant Oscar, it raised the possibility the ante-post favourite could be ideally placed to provide McCoy with the perfect send-off, but he is unable to do the weight of 10st 1lb.
As a result, Paul Carberry rides the nine-year-old for the first time. McCoy is instead on the Paul Nicholls-trained Benvolio, who was second in the Welsh National but was pulled up in Haydock’s Grand National Trial last time out.
“With record prize money up for grabs, it’s no surprise a maximum field of 30 have been declared for Scotland’s biggest race, and we have the possibility of AP McCoy, in his last Scottish National ride, denying his boss JP McManus victory with his new purchase, or of course, vice versa, should the ante-post favourite oblige,” said David Stevens, spokesman for the sponsors.
As many of the runners are at their best when the mud is flying, they may be disappointed when they get to Ayr as the ground is riding just about perfect ahead.
Clerk of the course Emma Marley said: “The going is good to soft at present. “We’ve had a dry day today and the forecast suggests a dry outlook for the next two days. I envisage us starting on good to soft ground, possibly good in places.
“We’ll see how it rides on the first day and what the jockeys say and we won’t rule out watering if we need to, but we have such a good covering of grass I don’t think we’ll have to. I’m really pleased with the condition we’re in to start off with.”
Gallant Oscar is among a maximum field of 30 runners. Nicholls also runs top-weight Sam Winner, the mount of Sam Twiston-Davies. Other major contenders include the Jonjo O’Neill-trained Catching On, David Pipe’s Broadway Buffalo and last year’s winner Al Co, trained by Peter Bowen.
Man With Van and Drop Out Joe are the last two horses in the final field, with Vintage Star and Carrigdhoun the respective first and second reserves.
The Coral Scottish Grand National Festival gets under way today with big fields and some of the top names in racing.
Horses from all over the UK and Ireland will be competing in the seven-race card including runners from the stables of Nicky Henderson, Alan King, Jonjo O’Neill, Sue Smith and Nigel Twiston- Davies.
The highlight is the £40,000 Hillhouse Quarry Handicap Chase, a Listed Race, which has a field of 13 including Alan King’s Hollow Penny, Brave Spartacus from the Keith Reveley yard and Brian Ellison’s Conquisto.
Nicky Richard, who has a great record at the track, saddles Sir Vinski, the mount of Brian Harding, in the Abbott Risk Consulting Novices’ Handicap Hurdle, while McCoy has three mounts today including Tap Night in the Hillhouse Quarry Chase in the McManus colours.
Club badges for Scottish Grand National day tomorrow have sold out in advance for the first time. Grandstand tickets are still available but racecourse bosses are urging people to book in advance or turn up early on the day.
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