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D'Estruval looks the part in Scottish National

WINNING the Aintree Grand National can take a hell of a lot out of a horse and, as such, there are very few that attempt to do the double with the Scottish Grand National at Ayr.

Indeed, the last horse to achieve such a feat was the outstanding Grand National specialist Red Rum, which won both the English and Scottish versions back in 1974.

This year's surprise English Grand National winner Auroras Encore had an SP of 66/1 at Aintree and was trading at double that price on the exchanges, but the bookmakers took no chances when the betting opened for Ayr this week and listed him up at 12/1.

Punters didn't bother biting at that price and the Sue Smith-trained gelding has since been eased out to 16/1; but considering the record of horses that run in both races, even those odds make little appeal. Stats aside, things look quite tough for the gelding from a handicapping point of view, as he's now up 11lbs to 148 for his Aintree exertions, making him the topweight with 11st 12lbs.

On the plus side, he did run well in second in the race last year when narrowly beaten by Merigo and it's worth remembering that both horses were some 15 lengths clear of the field as they battled out the finish.

Auroras Encore hit 1/5 in-running on that occasion off a mark of 143, but don't forget that the ground was good, which probably suits him better than today's expected soft/heavy.

It's good to see Ryan Mania fit and well to ride and it will certainly be interesting to see how well the horse has come out of Aintree, but I'd prefer not to spend money in finding that out.

Instead, I'm going to be somewhat unoriginal and back the Pauline Robson-trained Rival D'Estruval, which is generally priced around 5/1.

This race is a big deal for his owner, Raymond Anderson Green, who is looking to follow up his 2010 and 2012 victories with Merigo.

Whether or not Rival D'Estruval would have won the four-miler at Cheltenham had he not fallen two from home is something we will never know, but he was odds-on in-running and would surely have gone very close.

With Merigo now retired, Rival D'Estruval looks the one to fill the void for his owner and considering he acts on poor ground, he's almost certain to be thereabouts provided he gets around safely.

While it's been some time since a favourite won, fancied horses haven't fared too badly in this race in recent years with the top two in the market showing a place strike-rate of 40pc since 1997.

In the Greenham Stakes at Newbury (3.30), Olympic Glory should have enough class to see off Moohaajim, with early odds of even-money looking about right, even though Richard Hughes has said his mount may not be 100pc fit.

Richard Hannon has admitted he didn't realise just how talented the colt was until he put in a smashing performance in second in the Coventry Stakes at Ascot last summer and he has since built on that fine form by winning Group Two races at Newmarket and Goodwood and most lately the Group One Prix Jean Luc Lagardere at Longchamp.

Each-way outsider

The draw plays a role in the Spring Cup (2.20 Newbury) and with just three winners from 128 runners since 1997, horses drawn in stalls one to nine should be treated with caution.

That makes likely favourite from stall four, Educate, seem a little short at 7/1 so a chance is taken each-way on Border Legend, priced around 12/1.

He's put in a couple of solid efforts in decent handicaps, but he's still somewhat unexposed and has more to come before the assessor catches up.

Today's selections

1.50 Newbury: Noble Mission

2.20 Newbury: Border Legend (e/w)

2.55 Newbury: Rosdhu Queen

3.30 Newbury: Olympic Glory

3.50 Ayr: Rival D'Estruval

Irish Independent