Our ante-post expert previews Saturday's Scottish Grand National and selects Mendip Express.
By The Insider
Last Updated: 08/04/14 3:14pm
The Insider takes a look at Saturday's Scottish Grand National and fancies Mendip Express to give trainer Harry Fry a big-race success.
It's always a big ask to ask any horse to run in both the Crabbie's Grand National and the Coral Scottish National in the same season but this year it is an even bigger task as just seven days separate the two races.
However, the connections of top-weight Tidal Bay could attempt to do just that after the 13-year-old unseated Sam Twiston-Davies when hampered at the Canal Turn last weekend.
While the horse will obviously be fresher than most of the 39 runners that started at Aintree last weekend, it's not the greatest of preparations and this is clearly an after-thought following his mishap on Saturday.
As Pineau De Re's victory over the famous fences showed, everything has got to fall right on the day and preparations for any race have to go as smoothly as possible if you are to have a chance of winning.
Which leads us nicely into our Scottish National selection.
Mendip Express will be fresher than most heading into this race as not only did he skip Aintree, but he also missed the Cheltenham Festival as well. He was disappointing when third of four behind Smad Place at Newbury on his most recent start but had previously been very impressive in three starts at Wetherby, Bangor and Cheltenham.
On the face of it, Mendip Express' improvement seemed to peter out at Newbury but, scratch under the surface, and it is easy to make excuses for this run.
Anyone who was present on New Year's Day at Cheltenham will not forget it in a hurry, not necessarily because of the eight-year-old's performance, but probably because it was a horrendous afternoon with incessant heavy rain.
Nine fences were omitted in the extended three mile, two furlong event due to the bottomless going, and it turned into a real slog but Mendip Express travelled supremely well through the ground and showed that he clearly has the stamina for these marathon handicaps.
It is easily conceivable that he was feeling the effects of that hard race when flopping at Newbury and Fry has given him plenty of time to recover from this. His trainer is reportedly very pleased with him and is confident of a big run.
His main danger should come from Green Flag, whose form was given a massive boost last week when Holywell and Ma Filleule, who had beaten Lucinda Russell's gelding into fourth at Cheltenham, both won at Aintree.
The seven-year-old has been very progressive in his first season over fences and shapes as if this sort of trip will suit.
You couldn't totally rule out last year's winner Godsmejudge even though his form this year has been poor, while Sam Winner is an interesting contender for champion trainer-elect Paul Nicholls.
However, Mendip Express ticks all the right boxes and can finally fulfill the considerable promise he showed in the point-to-point sphere, where he won seven of his nine starts.