Little Glenshee can go a long way at Ayr

Sire de Grugy looks to be enjoying himself after returning to his best at Chepstow on Saturday. Picture: Getty
Sire de Grugy looks to be enjoying himself after returning to his best at Chepstow on Saturday. Picture: Getty
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LITTLE Glenshee would be an utterly deserving winner of the Play Casino At Handicap Chase at Ayr today.

Nick Alexander’s prized asset seldom falters on a racetrack, with eight placed finishes from ten starts over fences a testament to her consistency.

The mare only has one chase victory to her name, though, so connections will be keen to bolster the statistics at the Craigie circuit.

Little Glenshee must carry top weight for this race over an extended two and a half miles, but that should not put anyone off as she is a strong horse with a decent sized engine. The nine-year-old is also in fine order, with a fast-finishing third at Haydock, when she was a little out of her depth, backed up by a close second at Newcastle towards the end of January.

Alexander’s grey turned in a typically robust effort at Gosforth Park, where she succumbed by just half a length to the well-handicapped Beeves over three miles. Though she has done well in the past over that sort of distance, a pretty convincing argument can be made that this shorter trip is more her thing. It would be a surprise if Little Glenshee did not remain competitive off a long-standing mark of 120 in what is arguably her weakest test for quite some time.

Nicky Richards will be hoping Duke Of Navan has a nice confidence booster in the Back Of The Net At BetVictor Novices’ Chase.

He took a crashing fall when he last ran at Cheltenham in November.

On his chasing debut he had looked set to be one of the north’s leading novices, though, and given plenty of time to get over his mishap, Richards will be keen to get another win under his belt.

Westend Theatre could surprise a few in the BetVictor Handicap Hurdle.

Trained in Northumberland by Jane Walton, the six-year-old defied big odds and a lengthy break to finish a close fourth at Wetherby on his handicap debut over hurdles. Westend Theatre was only beaten just over five lengths by Rayadour, which has to go down as a sound effort as he had been sidelined since last March. Be that as it may, Walton’s representative faltered a little late on, so the decision to revert to two miles at Ayr is probably a good piece of business.

The handicapper has also shown surprising clemency by taking off 2lb, while Alistair Findlays’ handy 7lb claim adds further fuel to the optimism.

On Saturday, Sire De Grugy bounced back to his best with a superb weight-carrying display in the Rifles Handicap Chase at Chepstow.

Some had questioned the wisdom of trainer Gary Moore running the defending Queen Mother Champion Chase winner so close to the Cheltenham Festival, but his decision went a long way to being vindicated.

Once again travelling with his usual zest, despite the very soft ground, his jumping was much better than at Newbury, where he unseated Jamie Moore.

There were some massive leaps as he beat a solid yardstick Grey Gold by seven lengths.

“You could see he came up out of my hands a couple of times, which he never really did at Newbury,” said the jockey. “He’s back on song now.”

Paul Nicholls landed the BetBright Chase at Kempton with Rocky Creek, who in the process advertised his Crabbie’s Grand National claims.

The Ditcheat handler also saddled the favourite Easter Day but stable jockey Sam Twiston-Davies had overlooked him in favour of the winner. Just below top class, Rocky Creek (8-1) jumped the last in front in the National last season before fading into fifth but Nicholls feels he will last home this year after a breathing operation. “That is just what we wanted before Aintree,” said Nicholls.

At Newcastle, Ayr-based Ulsterman Ian Duncan won the Eider with Milborough, who now has the Coral Scottish Grand National at Ayr in April as his aim.

Roi Du Mee claimed the At The Races Bobyjo Chase at Fairyhouse for the second time and may head to Aintree, while Mallowney was the star turn at Naas a day later.