Barber targets Scotland finale for Denman
CONNECTIONS have nominated the Coral Scottish Grand National at Ayr as a likely target for Denman in a bid to close his campaign on a winning note.
The Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up has been allocated topweight of 11st 12lb in the four-mile chase on April 17. He will have to concede upwards of 25lb to the field, but he will only run if there is ease in the ground.
"If the ground is fast, or even good, he will not be running. It has got to be on the soft side," said Paul Barber, who part-owns Denman.
Sponsors Coral reacted to the surprising news by making Denman their 5/2 favourite for the Ayr marathon.
Spokesman David Stevens said: "If Denman were to run he would be a hot favourite. Although his presence would give us a very one-sided book, that would be more than compensated by the interest he would generate."
Failing that, Denman could take his chance in the Punchestown Guinness Gold Cup on April 21.
Ferdy Murphy had been eyeing the Scottish National for Poker De Sivola but will review his participation as Denman's presence would oblige him to race from 18lb out of the handicap.
Neither Poker De Sivola nor Galant Nuit will represent the trainer in the Powers Whiskey Irish Grand National on Monday.
"I feel the Irish race comes a bit too soon after Cheltenham for Poker De Sivola," Murphy said.
Murphy will run Galant Nuit in the Bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown Park next month. More immediately, he is pointing Kalahari King, who finished third behind Big Zeb in the Seasons Holidays Champion Chase, at the John Smith's Melling Chase over two-and-a-half miles at Aintree on Friday week.
"It was the fastest Champion Chase for 12 years," he said. "On that lively ground, and over two miles, it was a bit too sharp for him."
Bedlam Boy and Naiad Du Misselot are other Murphy runners bound for the Grand National meeting. (© The Times, London)