Gallant Oscar leads potent Irish Ayr raid
JP McManus' new acquisition Gallant Oscar will spearhead a five-strong sortie to plunder a first Irish victory in the Coral Scottish Grand National at Ayr tomorrow.
The prestigious £210,000 handicap chase has been run at its current home since 1966, but the only cross-channel raider to win the four-mile contest was Huntsman, which was trained and ridden to victory by Larry Hyland at the now redundant Bogside track in 1869.
Gallant Oscar missed the cut for the Grand National at Aintree, since when the Tony Martin-trained nine-year-old has been purchased by McManus. With AP McCoy unable to do the allotted 10st 1lb, Paul Carberry will partner Gallant Oscar for a first time, while McCoy will have his final Scottish National mount aboard Paul Nicholls' Benvolio, 18 years after his only previous win in the race on Nicholls' Belmont King.
Gallant Oscar, last seen finishing third to the unlucky Aintree casualty The Druids Nephew at Cheltenham in March, has been backed in recent days from 12/1 to clear 8/1 favouritism.
Jim Dreaper's Goonyella, another that missed out last Saturday having previously hacked up in the Midlands equivalent at Uttoxeter, will line out under 10st 10lb with Jonathan Burke up top, while Stuart Crawford's three-time course winner Yes Tom will carry 10st 6lb and stablemate Man With Van 10st. Raz De Maree, second at Uttoxeter, completes the travelling delegation for Irish Grand National-winning handler Sandra Hughes and Bryan Cooper under 10st 3lb.
A field of 30 will go to post in the National, with two reserves waiting in the wings. At Ayr today, Crawford saddles his Welsh National third Glenquest and Colin McBratney has four runners, while Ken Condon sends Newsletter to Bath for a Listed race.
At Newbury tomorrow, Aidan O'Brien's Dick Whittington, whose form received a boost when his closest Phoenix Stakes victim Kool Kompany won yesterday's Craven Stakes, will tackle Richard Hannon's leading 2,000 Guineas fancy Ivawood under Ryan Moore in the Greenham Stakes.
John Oxx, meanwhile, has expressed hope that My Titania will enjoy a better time of things this year. Fourth in Royal Ascot's Coronation Stakes and just third when sent off favourite for a Curragh Group Two on her only other start as a three-year-old last July, My Titania is pencilled in for a May return.
"She didn't really have a season last year," Oxx said. "She had a knee chip on her next run after the Coronation Stakes at Ascot. The Lanwades Stud Stakes at the (Irish) Guineas meeting will be the starting point.
"We'll see whether she will measure up then for the Pretty Polly Stakes later on. She's just started fast work this week and all's going well so far."