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Horse Racing

Mullins saddles six in Scottish Grand National



With the British trainers’ title on the line, Willie Mullins sends a six-strong squad to contest the Coral Scottish Grand National at Ayr on Saturday.

Mullins is not only seeking his first win in the £200,000 feature, he has never had a single winner at the track. But that could all change this weekend, as he saddles 18 runners across the afternoon.

His National team consists of Macdermott, Mr Incredible, Spanish Harlem, Ontheropes, Klarc Kent and We’llhavewan and assistant trainer Patrick Mullins ran the rule over the sextet in a Zoom call organised by the racecourse.

“Macdermott is an improving horse, he was always going to be a big chaser, he’s a strong type and was always going to improve for a fence and over a trip,” he said.

“He was good the last time out at Fairyhouse and he’s the kind of horse who improves with racing, we struggle to get him fit at home, to be honest, he needs racing to get the weight off him.

“He’s running off a much higher mark [12lb] and that’s going to be a big ask in a far more competitive race.

“I ride Mr Incredible, he didn’t get very far at Aintree, he’s fresh and well, so he’ll take his chance.

“Off a mark of 153, with 11st 9lb, it’s going to be difficult but if he could run into a place, that would be fantastic. We’re hoping he jumps off, that’s the first thing!

“Paul [Townend] was keen to ride Spanish Harlem and he’s a horse we’ve always thought an awful lot of. He has disappointed us a little because his work at home has been far superior to his form on the track.

“It’s his first handicap, so he’ll have to jump pretty sharp, but we’d like to think he’s better than a mark of 140. Paul just thought he had more room for improvement than Macdermott.

“Sean O’Keeffe rides Klarc Kent, very much an old-fashioned chaser, a horse who really should come into his own over four miles. He’s a novice off a low weight but he needs to improve.

“Brian Hayes rides Ontheropes. He got a leg after he won the Munster National and has been disappointing since but he was coming back to form last time and could be just coming to form at the right time.

“We’llhavewan was second in the Grand National Trial at Punchestown and ran well in the Irish National when perhaps he didn’t get home, but I think he just made some crucial jumping errors which just knocked him back.

“We’ve put the cheekpieces back on and that should help him jump sharper. He’s a little out of the handicap but Kieran Callaghan is our claiming rider, a local guy and he’s very good. I could see him running into the money.”

Dan Skelton is battling with Mullins for the title and is represented by Ballygrifincottage.

“He’s a horse that just recently has done really well. He had a bad autumn and winter but his form as a novice hurdler and early novice chaser looked very good,” said Skelton.

“For whatever reason, we lost him completely and everything just went to pot but he’s back in great form now and it was a good run at Ascot on his comeback and an even better run at Sandown when second the last day.

“I don’t think four miles will be a problem, but you never actually know until you try it – there is a slight unknown with that, but I go into it with the expectation that he’ll stay the trip.”

Stay Away Fay is one of two runners in the race for trainer Paul Nicholls

Trying to cling on to his title is Paul Nicholls, who runs top-weight Stay Away Fay and Broken Halo.

Nicholls told Betfair of the former: “He’s a class horse but life isn’t going to be easy for him running off top weight of 12st off a mark of 158.

“It just didn’t happen for him in the Turners at Cheltenham, where he was never happy, didn’t travel in the ground and his jumping let him down.

“We’ve removed the cheekpieces he wore there, as they didn’t seem to work, and I’ve felt for some time he would be suited by marathon trips. The track at Ayr should be much more suitable for him.

“Broken Halo was in with a shout when falling two out in the London National at Sandown in December and won at Taunton last month. He looks an interesting outsider.”

Brian Ellison’s Anglers Crag arrives chasing a five-timer and proved his stamina when winning the Eider Chase.

“This has been the plan since the Eider and he’s in good form. He’s been blood tested and scoped, everything looks clean and he looks a million dollars, so we just want a bit of luck in running now,” said Ellison.

“A bit of soft ground would help keep the job right for him. He’s gone up again in the weights, but you deserve to when you win, don’t you? It’s when you finish second and you go up that I don’t like!

“Willie Mullins obviously runs six, he’s struggling for winners!”

The form choice is arguably Jamie Snowden’s Git Maker, second to subsequent Grade One winner Inothewayurthinkin at Cheltenham.

“He ran a blinder to finish second at Cheltenham, pulling a long way clear of the third horse, and the winner has obviously come out and won a Grade One at Aintree, so the form has certainly been franked,” said Snowden.

“We’re up 1lb for that and we go there in good form. Obviously, it’s a highly competitive race, as you’d expect, but we couldn’t be happier with our chap and he gets in off 10st 3lb.

“I think he’ll stay well. They’ve had a bit of rain there and you would certainly hope the ground would be on the softer side, as he would definitely want a bit of cut in the ground.

“With a little bit of luck in running, hopefully he’ll have a chance.”

Emma Lavelle’s My Silver Lining has been consistent in long-distance chases all season, winning the Classic Chase at Warwick.

“She seems in great order. I was sort of looking for reasons not to go – was she flat, or was the ground not soft enough, or whatever, and none of the reasons came,” said Lavelle.

“I’m really happy with her, of course it’s a competitive race and with the championship the way it is, it’s probably more competitive than some years, but she’s really well, she’s as honest as they come, she’ll keep galloping and jumping and we’re just hopeful that she’ll put up another personal best.”

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