Gordon Elliott’s Folsom Blue was a notable absentee among the final declarations for tomorrow’s Coral Scottish Grand National at Ayr.
Unlucky in the Irish National on Easter Monday, the drying ground this week has not been in his favour and the rejuvenated 11-year-old will stay at home.
Elliott, who won the Irish National with General Principle and was successful with Tiger Roll at Aintree last week, will be represented by Fagan, although he has not been seen since chasing home Black Corton at Cheltenham in October.
Davy Russell, who rode Tiger Roll, teams up on Fagan while Sam Twiston-Davies once again takes the mount on Vicente, who will attempt to become the first horse to win three consecutive Scottish Nationals since Couvrefeu 11 in 1911, 1912 and 1913. He will have the ground to suit, with clerk of the course Graeme Anderson reporting yesterday that the going was good to soft and there is a predominantly dry forecast ahead of the £215,000 race.
Nicky Henderson, who famously has never won a Grand National in any country, runs both top weight Gold Present and Beware The Bear.
Tiger Roll’s owner Trevor Hemmings has another live contender in the race with Vintage Clouds, trained by Sue Smith and ridden by Danny Cook.
Today’s opening day of the Ayr meeting has attracted a total of 83 runners across the seven races.
The feature race is the £50,000 Hillhouse Quarry Handicap Chase at 3.45pm where 12 runners go to post, including Colin Tizzard’s Sizing Platinum the mount of top jockey Robbie Power. The ten-year-old ran well eight days ago to finish sixth in the Red Rum Chase at Aintree and could run a big race again, as could Theinval, second in this contest last year and from the powerful Henderson yard.
Mercian Prince is another interesting contender. He came unstuck at Cheltenham but can get back on track at a lower level today. He won two on the bounce for Amy Murphy before finding a Festival handicap too big an ask, finishing tailed off behind The Storyteller.
He drops to Listed class from Grade Three company and the likelihood of better ground is also another huge positive for his chances.
The main supporting race is the £30,000 coral.co.uk Seafield Trophy Mares’ Handicap Hurdle, where course winner Elusive Theatre from the Stuart Crawford stable in Northern Ireland has the help of Barry Geraghty in the saddle.
Another interesting runner is Smart Talk from the Brian Ellison yard, a winner of a Grade 2 at Doncaster in 2016, who is ridden by Brian Hughes.
The biggest field of the day is in the final race, the Seko Logistics Scotland Handicap Hurdle and Penrith- based trainer Nicky Richard could hold the key to this with Chapel Still, a winner last time out at Bangor on Dee.
At Newbury today, Look My Way can make the most of a return to the Flat by claiming the Compton Beauchamp Estates Ltd Silver Bar Handicap. John Quinn’s charge was last seen in action over hurdles at the Cheltenham Festival, when he finished a creditable eighth in the Fred Winter after enjoying no sort of luck in running.
He was hampered by a faller in the early stages of the race and struggled to make up the deficit, eventually keeping on up the hill to no avail.
Look My Way had previously finished a decent eight-length second to Apple’s Shakira and he did manage a win at Ludlow in January, but it is his previous Flat form for Andrew Balding that offers most encouragement.
A 22-length winner at Ffos Las last September before being sold, he also turned in some good efforts at a decent level through last summer, which saw him rise from a starting point of 62 to his current rating of 90.
Much of that increase is due to his Ffos Las verdict, but Look My Way appears just the type to keep batting away well in staying events such as this.