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Viking invasion

Harry can hoover up at Ayr, says Alex

Alex Hammond Posted 19th April 2012 view comments

This weekend we have plenty to look forward to.

Fresh from his first Grand National triumph, Paul Nicholls will be hoping to add more valuable prize money to his trainers championship total with a win in Ayr's Scottish National.

He runs a horse part owned by Sir Alex Ferguson, Harry the Viking, who is still a novice but has an excellent overall record which includes a second place in the National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham festival - so we know the four-mile trip won't be a problem.

Harry the Viking has a big chance for Sir Alex Ferguson and Paul Nicholls

Harry the Viking has a big chance for Sir Alex Ferguson and Paul Nicholls

Ruby Walsh hasn't ridden since that crashing fall at Aintree on Grand National day, and he returns to the saddle at Ayr. Twenty-five have been declared for the race and another of therunners who can run a big race is Andrew Parker's Merigo, who won this race in 2010 and was second 12 months ago. He comes here in good form having won here last month.

It's hard to get away from Harry the Viking, who looks like a future Grand National horse.

Alex Hammond
Quotes of the week

Portrait King represents Irish trainer Maurice Phelan, who brought the horse over here for a successful raid on the Eider Chase at Newcastle, so he has no stamina doubts.

Ikorodu Road has been a great servant for Matt Sheppard this season and is bidding for his hat-trick having won at Doncaster and Newbury. He beat Junior at Doncaster and he takes him on again. David Pipe's charge has top weight to carry here and is on a retrieval mission having fallen at the second in the National last weekend, but hopefully it was early enough in the race not to have left its mark.

Gold Cup sixth Knockara Beau steps up in trip, as does Galaxy Rock who represents Jonjo O'Neill and AP McCoy. Jonjo is always a trainer to respect with his staying chasers and it was desperate luck to lose Synchronised in the National. AP has also been sidelined since then and I hope the horse runs well for them and owner JP McManus.

Martin Keighley runs Any Currency who is a nice each way price. He could find some improvement for stepping up to this sort of trip and comes here a fresh horse having missed the cut for Aintree. He has shown he has plenty of stamina over three-and-three-quater miles in the past and he wasn't stopping there - he gets my each-way vote. It's hard to get away from Harry the Viking, who looks like a future Grand National horse for his in-form trainer - but at the prices I'm with Any Currency each way.

Setback

We haven't learnt a great deal about the Guineas yet as the Craven Stakes was sadly without Most Improved, who was found to be lame on Thursday morning before his intended trip to Newmarket.

Brian Meehan's colt had been the subject of positive reports and they were expecting a big run. He was generally second favourite for the classic in two weeks' time and this is less than ideal. It's not beyond the realms of probability that he will line up on May 5 though and don't write him off as two weeks is a long time with horses (as we've seen with Frankel over the last week!).

There are classic trials at Newbury this weekend with the colts strutting their stuff in the Greenham (the race won by Frankel last year). Roger Charlton unleashes his star colt Top Offer, who looked mighty impressive when winning his maiden at this track last Autumn. I spoke to Charlton at Windsor on Monday and he said that although he will come on for the run, he won't need it, so I expect he will run very well.

His main danger looks to be Sir Michael Stoute's Tales Of Grimm, who is also a course-and-distance winner as he won the other division of the same race last August. They are the two unexposed horses in the field and I'm sticking with Top Offer whose trainer has made a flying start to the season.

Wide open

The fillies go on trial in the Fred Darling and Best Terms is the highest rated in the field for Richard Hannon, who has already won a leading fillies race at Newmarket this week. She isn't the biggest of fillies and although she has reportedly been working well I'll be keen to take her on in this until we see how she has trained on.

Lyric of Light hasn't been declared for the race which makes it an easier task for the rest. The filly that caught my eye on her debut is Ralph Beckett's recent Leicester Maiden winner Moonstone Magic. There has been a decent amount of rain around which is something this daughter of Trade Fair will enjoy as it was soft when she won. Although this is a big step up for her, she looked like she had plenty of potential there and her stable is also firing on all cylinders.

The John Porter is another race worth a look at. Sadly Patkai doesn't make his debut for Rebecca Curtis, but I fancy the chances of his former stablemate, Fiorente, for Sir Michael Stoute. This is the type of horse that his trainer does very well with as an older horse and he is sure to win some decent prizes this term.

The main danger for me is John Gosden's St Leger winner, Arctic Cosmos, who will be spot on for this having won on the all-weather at Kempton recently and he will definitely have the fitness edge over my selection. However, I'm banking on the Stoute horse having matured over the winter and he was well regarded by his connections last season and ran some decent races to be placed at Group level. Although that doesn't make him as useful as the Gosden horse just yet he maybe worth taking a chance with.

Selections

Any Currency in the Scottish National (each way)

Top Offer in the Greenham

Fiorente in the John Porter

Moonstone Magic in the Fred Darling

For all the latest prices check out www.skybet.com

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