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A Grand double is in the offing for champion trainer Paul Nicholls
Last Saturday it was the John Smith’s Grand National at Aintree. Today, it’s the Scottish equivalent, and the common denominator could be champion trainer Paul Nicholls – with a little help from a certain Sir Alex Ferguson.
Neptune Collonges, a 33-1 shot, provided Nicholls with his first-ever Grand National winner on Merseyside a week ago, and the trainer can now complete a notable double at Ayr with Harry The Viking, carrying the colours of Ferguson, one of his four owners, in the £180,000 Coral Scottish Grand National over an extended four miles.
A dour stayer, who digs deep when the chips are down, just like his owner many might say, Harry The Viking has enjoyed a fine season already, rattling up a sequence of four wins before finishing a close second in the four-miles National Hunt Chase at last month’s Cheltenham Festival.
Ruby Walsh, who was forced to sit out last Saturday’s Aintree showpiece following a crashing fall earlier in the afternoon, is fit and well for the National mount today on Harry The Viking.
The Ayr meeting promises to provide rich pickings for Nicholls and Walsh, who have every chance of completing a four-timer.
Pacha Du Polder, their first representative, has not been seen since falling at Newbury in February. He had looked a most progressive performer up until that blip, however, and it would be hasty to dismiss him from calculations in the Arcadia Consulting William Dickie & Mary Robertson Future Champion Novices’ Chase.
The Isle Of Skye Blended Whisky Scottish Champion Hurdle is the target for Edgardo Sol, who scored for Nicholls and Walsh at Aintree last week. That fluent victory was achieved over fences, but Nicholls immediately nominated this Grade 2 race, back over the smaller obstacles, in his post-race plans.
Doeslessthanme can also score for Nicholls and Walsh in the Scotty Brand Handicap Chase. Formerly trained by Howard Johnson, the eight-year-old has proved a model of consistency this season and is chasing a hat-trick of wins.
The richly-endowed Ayr fixture, which spans a mammoth eight races, also offers opportunities to Nicky Henderson, Nicholls’ arch-rival in the championship, who can complete a double with Loose Preformer (5.10) and River Maigue (5.45).
At Wincanton tomorrow, when no Flat racing takes place in the British Isles, a note should be made of Whistling Senator, trained by Jonjo O’Neill and the mount of Tony McCoy, in the Bathwick Tyres Dorchester Handicap Hurdle.
McCoy can complete a double on Avoca Promise in the Bathwick Tyres Bridgwater Maiden Hurdle.
Paul Nicholls provides the nap selection in Current Event, winner of his last three starts, who turns out for the Bathwick Tyres Taunton Handicap Chase.
Harry Derham’s 7lb claim will help in the quest for a fourth straight win.
1.40 Cavite Eta, 2.15 Pacha Du Polder, 2.50 Edgardo Sol, 3.25 Harry The Viking, 4.00 Cloudy Too, 4.35 Doeslessthanme, 5.10 Loose Preformer, 5.45 River Maigue.
Today’s other meetings
Newbury, Bangor, Nottingham, Thirsk and Wolverhampton.
2.10 Victor Leudorum, 2.40 Pacha d’Oudairies, 3.10 Whistling Senator, 3.40 Current Event (NAP), 4.10 Avoca Promise, 4.40 Amuse Me.
Tomorrow’s other meetings