A maximum field of 30 have been declared for Saturday's Scottish
National at Ayr (3.25) with Neptune Collonges' presence at the top of the
weights meaning all bar eight horses will run from out of the
There was a similar scenario three years ago and we got a real shock result
in Iris De Balme, who won from 26lb out of the handicap at 66/1. With three
other winners being sent off at 20/1 or bigger in the past decade, it's safe to
say this is a race in which you should expect the unexpected and favourite
backers in particular have suffered with no market leader obliging since 2000.
All of which makes me view this year's market principals with a certain degree
Take this year's jolly Chicago Grey. On paper, he looks to
have the perfect credentials as he stays all day, has a very attractive racing
weight of 10st 9lb, won't mind the ground and will be ably ridden by Paul
Carberry. However, I'd be worried about the hard race he endured when winning
the four miler at Cheltenham last time and he wouldn't be the first horse to
fail to follow up here; most recently Poker De Sivola (pulled up), Old Benny
(fourth) and Native Emperor (pulled up). Besides, he's no certainty to beat the
Cheltenham second, Beshabar, who is 5lb better off for a four-and-a-half length
defeat. His price of 5/1 is an even bigger turn off.
This has not been a great race for Paul Nicholls in recent years but he does
control the weights this time with Neptune Collonges and his
stablemate The Minack looks to be sitting pretty on 10st 1lb
with Ruby Walsh penned in next to his name. He has stamina to prove but his
breeding is encouraging in that respect as he's out of that grand staying mare
Ebony Jane. However, having watched the video of his Reynoldstown third (would
have finished second but for a bad mistake), I'm far from convinced he jumps
well enough to win this and he too is readily passed over at the odds.
Not so easy to pass over is POKER DE SIVOLA, who looks to
have had an ideal preparation, in stark contrast to 12 months ago when he
arrived here on the back of winning the four miler. That race had clearly taken
it's toll and connections have deliberately kept him fresh this time restricting
his campaign to just two races, the latest of which was a never threatening
sixth in the Cross Country Chase at Cheltenham. That speed test was never going
to suit him and he will find this regular park course, off what should be a
strong pace, much more to his liking. The negative is that he's 6lb 'wrong' at
the weights but that is more than compensated by his price of 16/1 and it's
worth noting that his stable's two winners of this race in the last decade were
relatively unfancied at 14/1 and 20/1.
If we are going to get a real shock winner of the race this time, it could be
provided by COLD MOUNTAIN, who is a whopping 100/1 with Stan
James, who are also paying out down to five places. That could prove highly
generous as the nine-year-old is an out-and-stayer, having won over 4m2f at
Taunton last time, and will love the drying ground. This is much tougher of
course and he's miles out of the handicap but past results show it can be done
and he will be staying on when others have cried enough. He surely won't be
100/1 when the tapes go up.
At the time of writing, both Fair Along and Bellflower Boy are classed as
doubtful runners, so the field could be reduced to 28.
Betting Advice: Back Poker De Sivola and Cold Mountain