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Racing Preview of this weekend’s racing with Farringdon

Including the Scottish National at Ayr - plus races at Newbury, Thirsk and Brighton

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WE ARE being spoilt for choice when it comes to Nationals, having witnessed the Irish version on April 1, the Grand National at Aintree last Saturday and the Scottish National this afternoon at Ayr.

As always the Scottish version has nowhere the class or strength in depth of the Liverpool event, but it is nonetheless a fascinating renewal to unravel particularly with the added dimension of the Willie Mullins’s factor as he chases the British Trainers’ Championship alongside Paul Nicholls and Dan Skelton.

The Closutton Maestro has the current favourite in the very lightly raced Macdermott — set to race off a lovely weight of 10-07 which equates to a rating of just 137. Last time out the son of Saint Des Saints opened his chasing account at the fifth time of asking, when running away with a handicap chase at Fairyhouse to the tune of 12 lengths.

He has been penalised with a 16lbs hike, but obviously has loads of room to improve. My main problem with him is that the ground will definitely be quicker at 3.35 at the West of Scotland track then. He has so far come up against and he will be up against more experienced stayers in a much bigger field so his current price of 11/2 is easily passed up, and I would be happy to let him win at that offering.

He also makes the market for the rest of the field and had he not been trained by Willie Mullins I suspect he would be twice the price.

So there are a number of each-way alternatives worth a second look and the two at the top of my list are INIS OIRR and one of Mullins’s other runners ONTHEROPES. Both are available at double-figure prices so we have room in the value pocket to have an each-way play on both.

The former, trained by Lucinda Russell, has always had this four-mile marathon as his end of season target and the key to his chance is that the ground doesn’t deteriorate too much, as he seems a much better animal on good-to-soft ground. Stamina certainly won’t be an issue as we saw when he absolutely hosed up to the tune of 21 lengths in the four-mile Edinburgh National at Musselburgh at the beginning of February. A 14lbs penalty for that success was deserved and if the weather gods are on his side, then he has solid claims.

Ontheropes is slowly making his way back to form when it looked like the world was at his feet when he landed the 2021 Munster National off 141 and then followed that up with a fourth in the old Hennessy before being unable to make his mark in the mid-150s.

He showed a semblance of some form last time out though, when beaten 22 lengths into seventh in the Leinster National at Naas when he travelled through the race well, and had every chance between the third and second last before weakening on the uphill finish. Back down to that rating of 141 again, he could easily come forward for that effort, just his third start of the current term and like my other selection drying ground would certainly help.

Elsewhere on the card, I fancy a huge run from PETIT TONNERRE in the Scottish Champion Hurdle at 2.25. He will get a huge 16lbs from former winner and top weight Rubaud, and it could be that a bigger danger will be L’Eau du Sud. The selection has not enjoyed the deep ground this winter, but it is worth remembering that it was only this time last year that he ran Irish Hill to five lengths off 141 at Ascot over a half-a-mile further. Down to 132, on better ground and over the minimum trip, I think he is way better than his current odds of 25/1 and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him become a big springer in the market place.

Earlier on, HITCHING JACKING may supply Dan Skelton with another winner in his pursuit of the trainers’ championship by landing the valuable Novices Champion Handicap Chase at 1.50. The yard have a good record in this event, and he has a lovely mark here of 125 and may be able to make the most of the weight he gets from Sharjah, Marble Sands and Inch House.

There is a cracking card on the level at Newbury as the turf flat season really gets into gear, and the big betting race on the programme is the Spring Cup Handicap over a mile at 3.15. At the time of writing the bookmakers are offering 10/1 the field, and you could make a solid argument for at least half of the likely 21-run field.

Racingbreaks Ryder is an interesting outsider with Jamie Spencer booked and should he bounce back to the form which saw him chalk up a hat-trick of races at this time last year, then he could be a huge player. But in the end I have decided to roll with ALPHA CRUCIS down at the bottom of the weights and with a nice high draw of 17. His staying on fourth of 20 to Mr Professor in the Lincoln was a cracking run, and should have brought him forward and he gets to run off a 1lbs lower mark. Lattam, runner-up in the aforementioned Doncaster opener look a big danger against the selection.

The Greenham Stakes has always been a cracking 2,000 Guineas’ trial and the unbeaten Zoum Zoum is likely to go off a very short-priced market leader. Being a gelding, he won’t be qualified to run in the first colts’ classic of the season, so this along with the Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot will most likely be on his agenda.

For those allowed to run at Newmarket, the best alternative to Ralph Beckett’s runner could well be MISTER SKETCH trained by Eve Johnson Houghton. This son of Territories won one of this three juvenile starts, but his best run came here at Newbury in defeat when he ran a close-up second to Array in the Mill Reef Stakes. This better ground should help him and I think he offers a bit of each-way value at a double-figure price.

Finally, have a second look at HUDDLE UP (Thirsk, 6.05) and CHINTHURST in the 6.45 at Brighton. The last named made an eyecatching comeback over a mile-and-a-half at Lingfield last time out, in a race with more strength in depth and has a good record on downland tracks.


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