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Ayr Scottish Grand National meeting preview



Scottish Sun columnist and Racing TV analyst Ed Watson is our man on the ground for Saturday’s spectacular card at Ayr, where it’s 50 years to the day since Red Rum became the first – and to date only – horse to win the Aintree and Scottish Grand Nationals in the same season.

GIT MAKER (Scottish Grand National, 3.35 Ayr)

You expect to bump into Grade 1 horses at Cheltenham. Just not in the Kim Muir. That’s what happened to GIT MAKER, who would have been a wide-margin winner of that amateur riders’ handicap at the Festival had Inothewayurthinkin not been allowed to scrape into the race off what the world now knows was a gift of a mark of 145. Gavin Cromwell’s winner is now up to 158 following his ultimately clear-cut Grade 1 victory at Aintree last week, and promises to rate higher still once all the pieces of his jumping come together.

A bird, or big race, in the hand is worth two in the bush, of course. But the flip side for Git Maker’s trainer Jamie Snowden is his charge has gone up only 1lb for that run. Without Inothewayourthinkin in the race, Git Maker would probably have been hit with an 8lb rise, maybe more, for winning. As a result, Snowden’s eight-year-old remains a well-handicapped horse in my book, with further improvement likely now stepping up to four miles for the first time. Handsome and deserved compensation awaits here with a clear round.

The Inside Word: “He’s got the right kind of profile for the race. He’s won six of his 11 races to date, so he knows how to win. He stays very well and is better going left-handed rather than right. It was a cracking run in the Kim Muir and he’s come out of it very well. We’ll need a bit of luck, but then they all do.” – Jamie Snowden, trainer of Git Maker

WHACKER CLAN (Scottish Grand National, 3.35 Ayr)

The Kim Muir form can come to the fore here as I expect the demands of this race to suit WHACKER CLAN ideally. He has 18 lengths to find with Git Maker on that Festival form yet is no better off at the weights here by virtue of being 1lb out of the handicap.

Henry De Bromhead’s horse ran better there than the official result indicates, only weakening from the second-last on ground that had gone against him. Blessed with the right blend of tactical pace and stamina, his front-running style is a proven formula for success in the Scottish National, where making up ground from the second half of the field can be extremely difficult.

Drying conditions on the west coast of Scotland are in Whacker Clan’s favour and he’s a fresh horse for the time of year, too, having been given a midwinter break following his defeat of Twig at Cheltenham’s Showcase Meeting at the end of October. The return in the saddle of Rachael Blackmore, who boasts a 3-4 record on him, is another obvious positive. Like Git Maker, four miles is a step into the unknown, but it’s one I suspect will suit.

The Inside Word: “He has progressed really well this season, and he ran a big race in the Kim Muir at the Cheltenham Festival, where he finished third under a really good ride from John Gleeson. Of course, all eyes will be on Willie Mullins’ six horses. If Willie was to win it, it would obviously be a big step forward for him in terms of his chances of winning the British trainers’ championship. But I think that our horse can go well. He’s in good form at home, he seems to have come out of Cheltenham well, and I think that the step up to four miles could suit him.” – Rachael Blackmore, jockey of Whacker Clan via Betfair

L’EAU DU SUD (Scottish Champion Hurdle 2.25 Ayr)

Novices who’ve built up plenty of experience over the course of the season always have to be respected in handicaps like the Scottish Champion Hurdle.

Of this year’s crop, Favour And Fortune was let down by his jumping in last month’s Supreme. Last season’s Grade 2 bumper winner Florida Dreams may well find that part of his game cracking under the pressure of a top-level handicap over this trip. While Cracking Rhapsody has seen the form of his Morebattle Hurdle win take more knocks than a Tory party election campaigner. Ewan Whillans’ novice thrived in that big-field scenario at Kelso and may find the requisite improvement to be competitive from 8lb higher. Of those at bigger prices, he makes most appeal, including at double-digit odds in the ‘without favourite’ market.

Few horses deserve their day in their sun in one of these valuable handicaps than L’EAU DU SUD. He drew six lengths clear of the third (next-time-out Imperial Cup winner Go Dante) when runner-up to Lord Iberico in the Betfair Hurdle; then had everything else beaten off only to be pounced on late by Ebor winner Absurde in Cheltenham’s County Hurdle.

Dan Skelton’s charge has been raised 5lb and another 3lb for those near-misses, yet I still think this ex-French six-year-old is on a good mark. His recent form is the best on show.

It all comes down to price. At 5/2 and 11/4 earlier in the week, my initial thoughts were to find something with which to take him on. As the week’s gone on and he’s drifted a smidge, I’ve warmed to a wager. At the general 3/1, I’m still swithering. At 4/1, as race sponsors Coral and Ladbrokes have pushed him out to at the time of writing, I’m definitely a player.

The Inside Word: “He’s got some nice form from his last two starts and he’s come out of Cheltenham good and well. It’s his first run up at Ayr, but I don’t see the track being a problem and he’s versatile in terms of ground. We’re hopeful he can finally win one of these big handicaps. ”

– Harry Skelton, jockey

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