IT’S National season. One For Arthur plundered the Grand National at Aintree, Our Duke sauntered to success in the Irish version and now Scotland is about to have its place in the sun. The 2017 Scottish National market is dominated, not unusually, by novice chasers. Premier Bond is the ante-post favourite following Monday’s latest entry stage with Arpege D’Alene, Missed Approach, Vintage Clouds and Label Des Obeaux all first-season chasers who are prominent in the betting. And then there’s last year’s winner who could become the first horse since Androma in 1984 and 1985 to win back-to-back versions.
Vicente didn’t get far at Aintree. He fell at the first and it was a particular disappointment for Trevor Hemmings, who had bought the horse a few weeks before the race specifically so he could have a runner in the world’s greatest steeplechase.
On the plus side, Vicente was unscathed and will arrive at Ayr on Saturday a fresh horse. Crucially, he races off exactly the same mark as 12 months ago (146) when he travelled smoothly and won from Alvarado and the useful Seeyouatmidnight.
Paul Nicholls has pitched Vicente in against the best this season and, thus far, he has come up short. A faller in the Hennessy when beaten, sixth in the Welsh National and sixth in the Sky Bet Chase were followed by a disappointing run in the Grand National Trial, albeit in testing conditions, at Haydock in February.
But Vicente is one of those horses who seems to thrive in the spring. As a novice he was fifth to Minella Rocco in a stellar National Hunt Chase over 4m before winning at Ayr last April. He has won several other races in the spring and decent ground seems to bring out the best in him.
Also well handicapped is the aforementioned ALVARADO. He is 6lb lower than a year ago and will arrive a fairly fresh horse after a light campaign. Despite his age he appeals more at the prices (best price 33/1) than Vicente (a general 9/1 shot).
The £210,000 2017 Scottish National is run over a trip 44 yards short of four miles, 3m 7f 176 yards to be precise, and the race has been won and lost so many times in those final few lung-busting yards. Yala Enki heads the weights but would prefer softer ground than he is likely to get. There is some rain forecast on Wednesday and Thursday this week but probably not enough for Venetia Williams’ seven year old.
As well as Alvarado, who is 12, another old boy might be worth a Scottish National bet and that is the 11-year-old TRUSTAN TIMES. Once a 150-rated hurdler who was third to Reve De Sivola in a Grade One, he was 3rd in the 2014 Scottish National to Al Co off a mark of 140 and will race off 132 this Saturday. He won nicely over hurdles at Kelso recently on his second run for Mark Walford to show he retains his ability and could be thrown in on his best form. Admittedly, he lacks the scope of most of his younger rivals but the 25/1 available is worth an each-way punt.
TRUSTAN TIMES 25/1
Prices correct at the time of going to press.