Friday, April 19, 2024

Scottish Grand National 2024

If you say Willie Mullins often enough, sooner or later you're going to fall into the trap and say Mullie Willins - I'm sure I heard Ted Chamberpin do exactly that at some point during ITV's coverage in midweek.    

Anyway, the great man - Willie that is, not Ed - is attempting to repeat a feat achieved by Vincent O'Brien in the 1952-53 and 1953-54 seasons - win the British jump trainers' title from a base in Ireland.

W.P. Mullins saddles six of the 26 declared for this year's Scottish National (3.35 Ayr): Mr Incredible; Ontheropes; Spanish Harlem; Macdermott; Klarc Kent and We'llhavewon. 

Fellow title contenders Paul Nicholls and Dan Skelton saddle three between them - the former Stay Away Fay and Broken Halo while Dan relies on Ballygrifincottage. 

Earlier today Skelton nosed back ahead of Mullins in the title race after sending out Catch Him Derry (5/6f), Punta Del Este (25/1) and Presenting Nelly (5/1) to win at Ayr. 

Nicholls sent out Outlaw Peter (7/2jf) to win at Ayr and Kick Up A Storm (11/1) at Exeter; the Ditcheat handler has won the Scottish Grand National three times previously with Belmont King in 1997 and Vicente twice in 2016 and 2017. 

The going is currently described as soft.

Two six-year-old novices, Macdermott and Spanish Harlem, spearhead the Mullins challenge, along with Mr Incredible. The last six-year-old to come home in front was Earth Summit in 1994.

On his fifth start over fences Macdermott beat Better Times Ahead a comfortable 12 lengths at Fairyhouse earlier this month and was raised 12 pounds by the Irish handicapper to a mark of 133. He goes off 137 here and races beyond three miles for the first time. 

Spanish Harlem, the mount of Paul Townend,  has just three chase runs in the book, all over two and a half miles; his jumping hasn't always been foot perfect, with connections suggesting that, to date, this one has shown more at home than he has on the track.

Mr Incredible looked reluctant to go off with the field at the start of the Grand National last week but appeared a tad unfortunate to unseat in rear when hampered by Mahler Mission at The Chair.

Top weight Stay Away Fay faces a stiff task.

Since Grey Abbey won carrying 11-12 in 2004 only four have carried more than 11-00 to victory: Godsmejudge (11-03, 2013); Vincente (11-03; 2016); Vicente (11-10, 2017); and Mighty Thunder (11-01; 2021).

Clear favourite at the time of writing, Git Maker went clear two out with Inothewayurthinkin in the Kim Muir at the Festival but had to settle for second (Whacker Clan third, Whistleinthedark tenth). 

Four weeks later that Festival winner beat Iroko four lengths in the Grade One Mildmay Novices' Chase at Aintree and is now rated 158; Jamie Snowden's charge looks handily treated here on 133. Soft ground is important to him - the deeper, the better. 

Two key pieces of form are the Eider Chase at Newcastle in February and the Midlands Grand National at Uttoxeter five weeks ago.

On his first try beyond three and a quarter miles Anglers Crag did well to beat Prince Des Fichaux a neck on heavy ground in the Eider after making a serious mistake two from home. 

Brian Ellison's charge is unbeaten in four chase starts this term and has seen his mark rise from 106 to 134.

Eider third Tommie Beau has been kept busy throughout the winter but was less than seven lengths behind the winner while fifth Cruz Control franked the form by winning the Freebooter Handicap Chase at Aintree last Saturday.

Eider fourth Gold Clermont finished sixth behind Beauport in the Midlands Grand National.

Despite jumping right on occasions - and racing wide around the bend when setting off on the final circuit - Beauport still had enough in reserve to hold Mr Incredible one and threequarter lengths at Uttoxeter, with grey mare My Silver Lining third, Autonomous Cloud fourth and 9/2 favourite Iron Bridge pulled up.  

Beauport has been raised eight pounds; on revised terms the first four look closely matched once again. 

Handler Nigel Twiston-Davies has won this in the past with Captain Dibble (1992); Earth Summit (1994); and Hello Bud (2009).

Iron Bridge didn't jump particularly well on the day and weakened out of contention up the home straight; he was quickly pulled up before the final flight and was subsequently declared to be suffering from post-race heat stress.

Back in 2023 Autonomous Cloud, in receipt of 12 pounds, just held Iron Bridge a head in a three mile novice chase at the Midlands Grand National meeting.

Wearing a first-time visor Inis Oirr made all to win the Edinburgh National 21 lengths at Musselburgh in February and has been raised 14 pounds; Lucinda Russell's charge was a non-runner in the Midlands National and comes here fresher than most.

Mr Vango is another who likes to front run. 

He made all to win the Devon National at Exeter on heavy ground but had no answer to Corbetts Cross when third in the National Hunt Challenge Cup at the Cheltenham Festival.

In November 2022 Ballygrifincottage beat Beauport 11 lengths in a Haydock novice chase. 

On his next start, the Towton at Wetherby (February 2023), he bled from the nose and hadn't shown any worthwhile form since until chasing home Rose Of Arcadia at Sandown six weeks ago. Dan Skelton's charge looks feasibly handicapped off 138 but the trip remains an unknown.

Surrey Quest has won two of his three starts since moving to Toby Lawes, including the Mandarin Chase at Newbury; good ground in the Great Yorkshire Chase at Doncaster last time wouldn't have played to his strengths. 

Truckers Lodge beat Beauport in the London National in December. Broken Halo was four lengths down disputing third when coming to grief two out. 

Paul Nicholls' charge won over and extended three and a half miles at Taunton last time but has done most of racing on right-handed tracks in the past two years.

Elvis Mail won at Kelso 13 days ago and has been raised four pounds; Nick Alexander's grey has been known to miss out the odd fence now and again.

Gold Cup Bailly has been off the course for just over a year. He won at Ayr back in January 2023 when connections indicated he got a three mile trip without relishing it. 

Ontheropes won the Munster National in 2021 and was an 8/1 chance for the Ladbrokes Trophy Chase at Newbury the following month where he finished fourth behind Cloudy Glen. 

He looks to have had his troubles since but hinted at a return to some sort of form when seventh behind Hartur D'arc in the Leinster National at Naas six weeks ago.

Bumper winner Klarc Kent has yet to win a race over hurdles or fences in six attempts.

Whacker Clan, Egbert, Punitive, 2021 Welsh Grand National winner Secret Reprieve, and We'llhavewan all race from out of the handicap.

It's possible to make a case for several in the field - a couple at fancy prices too; trained in Scotland, Inis Oirr has been well backed during the day but I keep returning to the Midlands National form. 

Given a hold-up ride by (the now retired) Paddy Brennan, Autonomous Cloud didn't quite see out the four and a quarter mile trip on heavy ground at Uttoxeter when beaten seven and a quarter lengths. 

I'm hoping the shorter trip here on soft ground will help his cause; the handicapper has helped by reduced his mark one pound. Fergal O'Brien's charge often races up with the pace and I'd like to see those tactics adopted tomorrow in a race where the winner often comes from those that have travelled prominently.

Autonomous Cloud is the each-way suggestion, currently 20/1 with bet365 and Betfred who both pay six places.


TW said...

Going this morning at Ayr is Soft (Good to Soft in places) with a drying day ahead.

The system’ predicted finishing order:-

Horse, Win Chance
Mr Vango [IRE], 11.3%
Ballygrifincottage [IRE], 6.2%
My Silver Lining [IRE], 6.1%
Stay Away Fay [IRE], 5.5%
Macdermott [FR], 5.5%
Iron Bridge [IRE], 5%
Mr Incredible [IRE], 4.9%
Git Maker [FR], 4.7%
Elvis Mail [FR], 4.3%
Anglers Crag [GB], 4.2%
Surrey Quest [IRE], 4.2%
Tommie Beau [IRE], 4.1%
Broken Halo [GB], 3.9%
Beauport [IRE], 3.5%
We'llhavewan [IRE], 3.4%
Whistleinthedark [IRE], 3.4%
Klarc Kent [FR], 3.2%
Inis Oirr [IRE], 3%
Egbert [GB], 2.5%
Autonomous Cloud [IRE], 2.3%
Spanish Harlem [FR], 2.3%
Whacker Clan [IRE], 2.1%
Punitive [IRE], 1.5%
Secret Reprieve [IRE], 1.2%
Gold Cup Bailly [FR], 0.8%
Ontheropes [IRE], 0.8%

Autonomous Cloud is only given a 2.3% chance of winning but the system has not been flying since the revisions so I'd not see that as any hindrance to the selection.

Mr Vango is the system standout. He followed up that 60L romp at Exeter with a solid effort at the festival when beaten, at level weights, by Corbetts Cross. CC’s effort in the Bowl at Aintree gives that form substance and a mark of 135 still looks within MV’s compass. MV beat Inis Oirr in a maiden hurdle on Good to soft so I’m hoping he is not too dependent on a deep ground. The early 20/1 has long gone and current odds of 12/1 are now fair rather than generous, but if he can get in to a good early rhythm he could lead them all a merry dance.

Good luck!


GeeDee said...

Thanks for providing your ratings, TW.

Mr Vango is one I like - I'd missed the fact he beat Inis Oirr back in 2022; they look closely matched here.

Good luck!

GeeDee said...

Plenty of money for Mr Vango just before the off; he started 4/1 favourite.

Two of Willie Mullins' six runners were out of contention at the first fence - We'llhavwan (25/1) unseated Kieran Callaghan while Mr Incredible pulled himself up before jumping the obstacle.

Macdermott (18/1) and Surrey Quest (20/1) fought out the finish to the 2024 Scottish Grand National; the judge took his time before declaring Mullins' charge the winner by a nose.

Git Maker (8/1) stayed on to claim third, some four and a half lengths in arrears, while the three other Willie Mullins trained runners, Klarc Kent (50/1), Ontheropes (66/1) and Spanish Harlem (12/1) finished fourth, fifth and sixth respectively.

Selection Autonomous Cloud (22/1) raced towards the rear, making some headway into midfield on the final circuit. He was struggling to keep tabs on the principals as they exited the back straight and eventually completed in tenth, 26 lengths behind the winner.

With three other winners on this card, namely Sharjah (7/1), Chosen Witness (16/1) - beat the Dan Skelton trained Major Fortune (9/1) a nose - and Quai De Bourbon (8/11f), W P Mullins is going to be very difficult to peg back in the race for the trainers' title.