The Aintree Grand National may have been and gone, but this weekend sees the Scottish equivalent taking place at Ayr Racecourse. We at BetPal have managed to identify a couple of potential winners of the big race, including a 12/1 chance with the race sponsors Coral. Read on for our 2012 Scottish Grand National preview.
The Coral Scottish Grand National takes place at Ayr and is run over four miles and 110 yards. In the earlier days of the race’s history, it took place at Bogside Racecourse and the first ever Scottish National was held there in 1867, but in 1966 the race switched to Ayr, where it has been held ever since.
At the time of writing, there are still 35 horses entered in the 2012 Scottish Grand National and so, as ever, we’ll attempt to thin the field a little by taking a look at recent winners of Ayr’s showpiece National Hunt race, and attempting to pick out any key trends that might point us in the direction of this year’s winner.
A good starting point is to take a look at the Aintree Grand National, as horses that lined up in Liverpool before travelling to the Scottish National have a woeful record. In the past eleven years, 39 horses have lined up in both races and only one of them managed to run into a place, with none of them having been successful. For me, this is enough to rule out some of the favourites for the Scottish National, such as West End Rocker and Junior.
The age of the horse is also an important consideration when looking for the Scottish National winner, as 16 of the last 22 winners have fallen in the eight to ten years old bracket. Only two Scottish National winners in the last fifteen years have been outside of that bracket, and that looks to be a very strong trend indeed.
It’s worth noting that although seven year old horses don’t often win the Scottish Grand National, they don’t have a bad record in terms of placing in the race. 11 of the last 44 places (25%) were filled by seven year old horses, despite them representing only 16% of the total number of Scottish National runners.
Another strong looking Scottish Grand National trend concerns weight; nine of the last ten winners of the race were carrying a total of 10st 9lbs or less, suggesting that we really should be looking for well treated horses, rather than expecting something to lump a huge weight over this grueling trip.
As with the Aintree Grand National, you would expect a Scottish National winner to have already proven its stamina and all of the last eleven winners of the race had previously won over three miles (or more) at some point in their careers.
We should also be looking to choose a horse nearing its peak ahead of the Scottish National, rather than one that has been too heavily raced or one that hasn’t had enough race fitness this season. All of the last eleven Scottish Grand National winners had run in three to six races before landing the big race at Ayr. Similarly, all of the past eleven Scottish National winners had some semblance of form coming into the race, having finished in the front six last time out; eight of those actually finished in the first three.
Two other strong trends to emerge from analysing past winners of the Coral Scottish Grand National concern the horse’s actual ability. Like its Aintree cousin, the Scottish National tends to be won by a reliable jumper, so we should be focusing on those horses with a history of being solid over fences, while a certain amount of class is also required of a potential Scottish National winner.
These trends can be illustrated by the fact that ten of the last eleven winners had won a Class 3 (or better) race prior to success at Ayr – the one exception to that trend had finished second at the Cheltenham Festival, which still confirms a certain level of ability – while only one horse from the last twelve Scottish Grand National winners won the race having fallen or unseated its jockey more than once in its career under rules.
So by applying all these trends to the 2012 Coral Scottish Grand National field, what are we left with? Just one horse – the William Amos trained Lie Forrit.
What do we actually know about the horse? Well, we would certainly want to see some more rain to fall at Ayr prior to the big race on Saturday, as the eight year old bay does tend to prefer it on the softer side (six of the horse’s seven career wins came on Good to Soft or softer, with four of those being Soft and one being Heavy). A real positive is that the horse does seem to like it at Ayr, having won two races from five trips to the Scottish track, with a further brace of second places (though admittedly one of those did come in a three horse race).
Over hurdles, Lie Forrit has won a Listed race and in 2010 took on the likes of Big Buck’s in the World Hurdle, which certainly suggests a certain amount of class. Although this is the horse’s first season chasing, he landed the Class 2 Paris Pike Novices’ Chase on his chasing debut (despite a 626 day absence due to a tendon injury) and has shown further signs of ability since.
I’m a big fan of the talented young jockey Campbell Gillies too, who recently won his first race at the Cheltenham Festival in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle. I’m confident that he can add another major prize to his CV this weekend in the shape of the Scottish Grand National, and at a best price of 12/1 with race sponsors Coral, Lie Forrit looks a nice bet.
One other horse that deserves a mention is Merigo. The only trend that the Andrew Parker trained horse falls down on is age, being eleven years old, but if any horse is capable of busting that particular trend, it’s definitely Merigo.
A winner of the Scottish Grand National off a mark of 127 back in 2010, he returned last year racing off 142 and was only beaten into second by three-quarters of a length. This year the horse returns to Ayr off a mark of 134, which looks very generous indeed, and under regular jockey Timmy Murphy the horse must have a serious chance in the 2012 renewal. Sadly, this is reflected in its best price of 17/2 (SportingBet), but I think it’s still worth a saver.
The Coral Scottish Grand National
Saturday 21st April 2012, 15:25