Sunday 25 February 2018

Buffalo can jump to it and see off Martin's Gallant Ayr raid

Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Unlike its Aintree equivalent, younger horses aged seven do quite well in the Scottish Grand National (3.45 Ayr) and since 1997, we've had two winners at that age with almost one in four landing a place.

The most recent was Godsmejudge (2013) which proved reasonably popular with punters and was sent off at 12/1. Last year, nine-year-old Al Co was a surprise winner at 40/1 but he's 7lbs higher this year and early odds of 14/1 are probably a fair reflection of his chances.

That said, his jockey Sean Bowen claims 3lbs and last week's Aintree Grand National should not have taken much of a toll on Peter Bowen's gelding considering he unseated at the first.

At the time of writing, Tony Martin's raider Gallant Oscar looks set to go off as favourite. Recently bought by JP McManus, Paul Carberry gets the ride with Tony McCoy unable to do the weight.

Although Martin certainly knows how to plot one up, it's my own view that his mark of 137 is just about right which doesn't leave him with much room for manoeuvre.

Don't get me wrong, he'll probably be thereabouts and I wouldn't put anyone off backing him but most of the value seems to be now gone and bookmakers have taken a cautious approach by cutting him to 8/1 following some market support this week.

The aforementioned Tony McCoy was due to ride Paul Nicholls' Benvolio but that horse was pulled from the race yesterday on account of the ground, meaning one of the reserves, Vintage Star, will take his place instead for Sue Smith under jockey Harry Skelton.

Getting back to seven-year-olds, my money is on Tommy Whittle Handicap winner Broadway Buffalo (12/1) which proved that stamina is one of his assets when chasing home Cause Of Causes in the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham.

With the promise of more to come, I don't think the handicapper has David Pipe's charge firmly in his grip just yet with a mark of 141 - although the main worry for backers is his jumping and he's been known to make the odd howler.

He came to grief at the sixteenth fence in Haydock's Grand National Trial in February having made a number of errors throughout but to give some credit, he was a lot sharper at Cheltenham and I hope he can put in a clear round again today. If so, he won't be too far off and at the prices, he's taken each-way.

The Flat season is beginning to gather pace and Newbury will host three Graded races including the John Porter Stakes (1.45). Romsdal is likely to prove warm in the markets following a very good three-year-old campaign last year but Arab Spring gets the nod instead at a generous 4/1. He was very impressive when landing his fourth career win in the Duke of Edinburgh at Royal Ascot under top-weight, and his latest race at Newmarket is overlooked as he just wasn't right on the day.


Tony Martin's I Shot The Sheriff looks the one to beat in the Scottish Champion Hurdle (2.35 Ayr) but he's a little too short for my liking at 4/1 and I'm going to take an each-way chance on the outsider of the field Roman Flight at 33/1.

David Dennis' gelding was below form when ninth at Plumpton last time but he's come down in the ratings over the winter. Although he looks a little out of his depth, he's often punched above his weight in some good races.

Today's selections

1.45 Newbury: Arab Spring

2.00 Ayr: Top Gamble

2.15 Newbury: Tiggy Wiggy

2.35 Ayr: Roman Flight (e/w)

2.50 Newbury: Belardo

3.45 Ayr: Broadway Buffalo (e/w)

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