IT's the first day of the Scottish Grand National Festival at Ayr as plenty of the big guns from south of the border come up to Scotland in search of some big prize money.
There are plenty of good races over the two days and I'm going to go through the card each day and hopefully find plenty of winners.
The first race is probably the toughest race for me to take a strong view on. There are four market leaders very close to each other in the betting and it's only a 5-horse race. My tentative selection would probably be Deyrann De Carjac simply because he has a 10lb weight allowance over the other three contenders and has the most potential for improvement given that this is only his second run over hurdles.
The problem is that he would need to improve a fair amount to beat the other three who are all previous winners over hurdles. At the current prices I'm not going to have a bet.
A competitive looking race where Demon D'Aunou is respected for Jonjo O'Neill on handicap debut but a bit too short in the betting now. Likewise Dino Velvet has to be considered for the win because he is dropping in class here after running well in some quality handicaps at Kempton and Cheltenham earlier in the season.
The one that I fancy to outrun his price though is one of the northern-trained contenders MARTILA for Pauline Robson. Crucially he has won over course and distance in November (albeit on heavy ground) and finished 2nd also over course and distance in October (good to soft). We are getting a bigger price because the bigger stables are in town today and this 6 year old mare looks the choice for me.
The favourite Darius Des Bois has a strong chance here and if you are a favourite backer then by all means charge on but I'm not keen on tipping favourites at 2-1 in 11 runner handicaps because I'm usually of the view that there is some value to be found elsewhere.
The one that I am going to take a chance on is SILENT STEPS for the Paul Nicholls yard. The horse has been given a few months off since couple of poor chase runs in December. One of his best pieces of form was 2nd place in a handicap hurdle over this course and distance last year.
I'm hopingNicholls will have worked his magic and that he can go close at a nice price.
Much like the previous race Nicky Henderson has a strong favourite in the shape of Theinval who ran well last week and has a strong chance. Don't let me put you off if you fancy him but I have one at a bigger price that I fancy.
CRACKING FIND could live up to his name if he wins this one at the current prices. He has won two on the bounce and the horse that finished 2nd to him last time has since won another race. He has won on good ground and soft so the ground shouldn't be an issue if he can go the early pace in this classier race.
Valhalla is attractive in this race at first glance but one of his recent wins was due to the disqualification of the winner who beat him by 26 lengths and he perhaps doesn't want the quick ground he will get today. LOFGREN is an interesting contender who was pitched in at the deep end in the 4-miler at the Cheltenham Festival and there has been some money for him overnight having been dropped all the way back to a 2 mile race here. He is my tentative selection in the hope that a return to good ground and this trip where he was successful twice in May is just what he needs.
A really interesting mares' handicap hurdle here with plenty of contenders from the big stables. The one that I like is TARA VIEW who looks like she could still have some improvement to come and has been eased a couple of pounds in the weights after a reasonable 3rd place last time.
A competitive handicap hurdle to finish things off on day 1 and BOB MAHLER looks interesting with the champion jockey in the saddle. He was beaten just half a length by Chef Des Obeaux in December and won his latest race comfortably. His handicap mark looks fair enough and if he enjoys the better ground he should go really well.
- 2.05pm – No Bet
- 2.40pm – Martila – 2pt e/w at 11-1 with Betfred (paying 4 places)
- 3.15pm – Silent Steps – 2pt e/w at 9-1 with Bet365
- 3.45pm – Cracking Find – 1pt e/w at 12-1 with Ladbrokes, William Hill, Bet365
- 4.15pm – Lofgren – 2pt win at 6-1 with Marathon, Bet365
- 4.45pm – Tara View – 2pt e/w at 13-2 with Betfair, Paddy Power, Bet365
- 5.15pm – Bob Mahler – 2pt e/w at 7-1 with Betfred (paying 5 places)