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Rowleyfile Preview: 2017 Scottish Grand National

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Simon Rowlands looks at the trends and recommends two 20/1 bets in the 2017 Scottish Grand National at Ayr on Saturday.

There has been much talk about disgruntled Scottish nationalists following recent political events, and a little of something similar after Scotland’s rugby players were snubbed in the British Lions selection, but there is nothing to be upset about where the Scottish National at Ayr on Saturday is concerned. A maximum field has been declared and it looks like being a thrilling and good-quality renewal.

Many of the big stables and most of the top jockeys are represented in the 30 runners (plus one reserve) declared for the Coral-sponsored event.

With only one horse quoted universally at under 10/1 at the time of writing – Premier Bond – it should help to have a quick look at what the trends say about the race before moving onto other forms of analysis in the search for a good bet or two.

As usual, I took the last 10 editions of the race, put the horses into categories, and used a number of measures – notably place impact value (factor by which horses placed compared to chance) and % of rivals beaten – to judge how well those categories had fared. 

There is not an awful lot there when using more sophisticated measures (something I seem to write a lot where trends are concerned), but you should certainly not be put off older horses, horses running off low BHA marks and those with a better-than average chance on Timeform adjusted ratings.

Interestingly, last-time winners have done worse than might be expected (they usually over-perform markedly), though less interestingly there are only two such horses in Saturday’s field. There is little discernible effect in terms of length of absence (or in number of runs, number of wins and other measures not shown).

One feature of the race which does not appear in the above numbers, but which is reflected in Timeform Early Position Figures, is the likelihood of a strong pace at this marathon trip. No less than 11 of the runners have EPFs of 2.2 or less, indicating that they tend to race close up or even force things.

That is a remarkable race profile and suggests there may be more than usual merit in looking at those who tend to be ridden more conservatively, not for the whole of the contest – there is plenty of jumping to be done late on at Ayr and it is often difficult to make up much ground in the closing stages as a result – but in the first half of it.

As it happens the two horses I identified as being of most interest at their prevailing odds both tend to come from behind.

That did not do either Another Hero or Sugar Baron any good in a strongly-run Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir at the Cheltenham Festival last time, but there were other legitimate excuses for the pair, and the extra three quarters of a mile could also make a crucial difference.

Another Hero got hampered a number of times that day under his amateur pilot and unsurprisingly never figured. Before that, he had shaped quite well when in the frame in strong contests at Ascot and Doncaster. The tongue tie he wore at Cheltenham has been replaced with cheekpieces for the first time now.

Another Hero had an excellent first-two strike-rate before this season and the Scottish Grand National looks a good opportunity for him to salvage something from his campaign.

Sugar Baron managed sixth at Cheltenham but looked for all the world as if he would benefit from further than that trip of three and a quarter miles, toiling mid-race and only really getting going after the third-last. He is another equipped with cheekpieces for the first time.

Sugar Baron is a novice with potential and could, in any case, be well-handicapped on his defeat of 143-rated Present Man at Wincanton on his chasing debut and the form he would probably have shown if standing up at Sandown the next time. He gets to run off a BHA mark of 134 here.

There are several others with interesting claims in the Scottish Grand National but none of them look as over-priced as Another Hero and Sugar Baron to my eyes.

Place terms are not unattractive, but this is not a race which screams “each-way bet!” in the way that some others previewed have (win book is around 136% at the time of writing, while each-way book is around 126%). A couple of straight-win bets will do us. 

Recommendations: 1 pt win ANOTHER HERO at 20/1, 1 pt win SUGAR BARON at 20/1

 
 

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Tuesday 25 April
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W. P. Mullins, Ireland hot trainer
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