After an eighth fence mishap in the Aintree Grand National, trainer Paul Nicholls is analysing further options for veteran chaser Tidal Bay with the Scottish equivalent at Ayr currently being favoured instead of encountering potentially drier ground in the Sandown Bet365 Chase later in the month.
TIDAL BAY has been allocated a top weight of 11st 12lb for the marathon test in Scotland with a 19lb difference to the next horse in the handicap. Yet there are several horses who can pose a threat to the Graham Wylie owned gelding.
Kinross trainer Lucinda Russell is expected to saddle both ante-post favourite Green Flag and the more experienced Lie Forrit. Like many horses in the race, Green Flag is a novice and has yet to win beyond 3m 1f but his third placing behind Holywell at the Cheltenham Festival has proved to be good form and William Hill are offering him at 9/1.
Lie Forrit is three years older than his stable companion and has been campaigned in staying chases for several seasons. His most recent performance, when winning a 3m 2f event at Kelso in March carrying top weight, earmarks him as a serious threat with Sporting Bet quoting him at a best price 20/1.
Despite the uncertain participation of Tidal Bay, Paul Nicholls is expected to allow Sam Winner to take his chance on Saturday. After a disappointing start to a chasing career, the horse has recently been reintroduced to fences and produced a respectable performance when finishing fifth behind O’Faolain’s Boy in the RSA Chase at Cheltenham. Much depends on his recovery from that hard race and he is priced 10/1 generally.
Harry Fry will be hoping that MENDIP EXPRESS can beat both horses entered by his former boss. He is another lightly raced novice who was unbeaten over fences prior to being third of four in heavy going at Newbury. He has since been given a breather and appears to have sufficient reserves of stamina for this contest with top price of 10/1 being offered by sponsors Coral for the eight year old.
Last year’s winner Godsmejudge has produced nothing of note this season and a repeat performance is difficult to envisage but three other horses could be in contention.
Philip Hobbs is likely to send Roalco De Farges to Ayr after the horse reappeared, after a near two year absence, with three races this winter. He has improved with each display culminating in a victory at Newbury over 3m 2f in March and cannot be discounted at a price of 14/1 with Unibet.
Like Mendip Express, Edmund Kean has been rested after three quick races on heavy ground during the early part of 2014. He won two of those contests but there is just the suggestion that the David Pipe trained horse needs heavy going to produce his best form, although he is quoted at 14/1 by Coral.
Nicky Henderson is hoping that HADRIAN’S APPROACH can seal his second victory of the season after showing real promise as a novice during the previous campaign. After being placed behind both Lord Windermere and Dynaste last spring, the seven year old won at Newbury in December before failing to act on the course when well beaten at Cheltenham. He appears suited by flatter course and odds of 25/1 with Sporting Bet seem good each way value.
Scottish Grand National – Ayr – Saturday 12th April
Photo of Mendip Express courtesy of Meteorshoweryn