Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Scottish Grand National tips and predictions: Mr Vango the choice

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As the jumps season reaches its climax, the Scottish Grand National could play a big part in the destination of the trainers’ title. The £112,500 that goes to the winner has been known to swing the championship before.

This race is about a lot more than its significance to the end-of-campaign awards. It is a spectacular four-mile chase, won in the past by greats of the game and plenty of young horses on their way up the ranks. A field of 26 has been declared for Saturday’s contest, with a scheduled off-time of 3.35pm. Here are three to keep onside.

Scottish Grand National tips

Odds, correct at the time of publishing, are subject to change.

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History repeating for the Bradstock operation

Five years ago, the Bradstocks hurried to get a novice chaser called Step Back qualified for the end-of-season marathons. He got his third run in just in time, then turned up in the bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown, running off a mark of 135. He made it all and won by 13 lengths.

There are a lot of parallels with MR VANGO in this Scottish Grand National. He debuted over fences on Boxing Day, then turned up in deep ground at Exeter for his handicap debut over 3m 6f and won by 60 lengths. 

Despite that, Mr Vango was still not qualified for big handicaps and that would have been part of the reason he turned out relatively quickly at the Cheltenham Festival. He finished third in the National Hunt Chase, distantly beaten by Corbetts Cross, but that horse finished third in the Grade 1 Bowl at Aintree last week. Mr Vango, who is still rated 135, would also get a stone from the second at Cheltenham were they to meet in a handicap.

In short, Mr Vango lost nothing in defeat in the Cotswolds. He races prominently, like Step Back – and more importantly, those tactics suit the Scottish National. He also gets soft ground. While ideally he may want it even deeper, plenty will be inconvenienced to a far greater extent by unusually heavy conditions for this race.

Selection: Mr Vango @ 16/1 with Coral

Oirr to soothe Russell’s Aintree woes

Defending champion Corach Rambler suffered the most inglorious exit possible last week at Aintree, parting company with his rider Derek Fox at the first fence. There could be a pick-me-up for the trainer here, and the trend set by Mighty Thunder three years ago is worth focusing on when it comes to Lucinda Russell’s challenge in this year’s Scottish National.

In 2021 Mighty Thunder won the Edinburgh National, finished second in the Midlands National then won the Scottish National. INIS OIRR has followed a similar road. He won the Edinburgh National in thunderously good style, then was declared for the Midlands National only to be pulled out on deep ground.

He faces the opposite problem to Mr Vango, in that he would reportedly benefit from quicker going. It was faster than he had been racing over previously when he won at Musselburgh, but it was hardly rattling rapid. So if conditions dry out at all he should not be disadvantaged.

Selection: Inis Oirr @ 12/1 with Coral

Skeltons can strike in trainers’ title

Willie Mullins has six in the Scottish National field, Paul Nicholls two. The third contender for the trainers’ championship, Dan Skelton, relies on BALLYGRIFINCOTTAGE – but he is the one whose claims are being underestimated.

This horse looked set for top novices when he started out over fences, before injury intervened. He has worked back to form this season, finishing a close-up fifth at Ascot in February before a three-quarters-of-a-length second at Sandown last time. 

Ballygrifincottage has always appealed as a horse in need of a good test, perhaps away from the deepest ground. It would not be a surprise if the Scottish National had been the target for some time.

Selection: Ballygrifincottage @ 14/1 with Coral

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