It comes as no surprise to learn that the 2011 John Smith’s Grand National winner, Ballabriggs, sixth at Aintree in his repeat bid on Saturday, is amongst a group of high-profile horses absent from the five-day declarations for this weekend’s Coral Scottish Grand National at Ayr, writes Elliot Slater.
Donald McCain’s charge ran a fine race off a much higher mark, and had every chance between the final two fences, only to fade on the run-in; he was never going to be asked to turn out again so quickly after such a gruelling race on Merseyside.
Burton Port, fourth in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, last month, and a brave runner-up to Follow The Plan in last week’s Grade 1 Melling Chase at Aintree, is also an absentee, as expected, whilst Midnight Chase is another whose connections have resisted the urge to send him on the long journey to the west coast of Scotland.
Junior, a faller at the second fence at Aintree, has been declared at the five-day stage, and could well take his chance under the top weight of 11st 12lbs. West End Rocker, who fell at the same obstacle, is another who could seek to gain quick compensation for the disappointment of getting no further than the very early stages of ‘the world’s greatest steeplechase’.
Paul Nichols, still revelling in the success of his gallant grey, Neptune Collonges, will bid for a Grand National double and saddle the current ante-post favourite, Harry the Viking (6/1).
Merigo, a winner of the 2010 renewal, and only narrowly denied in a tremendous race with Beshabar, 12 months ago, is the current ante-post second-favourite, at a general offer of 9/1, alongside Portrait King. The hat trick-seeking Ikorodu Road is next on the list, at 10/1 in the horse racing betting, while the reliable Knockara Beau is at 12/1 bar.