Premier Bond given license to thrill in Scottish Grand National at Ayr

    Middleham Park Racing are hoping lightning strikes twice when the owners bid for a second win in the Coral Scottish Grand National at Ayr on Saturday.
  • Friday 21 April 2017
  • News

Middleham Park Racing are hoping lightning strikes twice when the owners bid for a second win in the Coral Scottish Grand National at Ayr on Saturday.

Successful with the Tim Vaughan-trained Beshabar in 2011, the syndicate are represented by Premier Bond from the title-chasing Nicky Henderson yard.

Premier Bond has had just four starts over fences, the first of which was at Doncaster in December when he was second to his brilliant stablemate Might Bite.

After having won at Catterick and Doncaster in January, the seven-year-old took a big step up to finish third to Domesday Book in the Kim Muir at the Cheltenham Festival.

"Novices have a great record in this race and he's always threatened to be a horse that needed these elongated stamina-laden trips, even since we ran him in bumpers," said Middleham Park National Hunt manager Tom Palin.

"I wouldn't say it's been a long-term plan, but this race has been in the back of our minds for the best part of two years.

"It was just a case of how he took to chasing. He was bought to be a chaser and he's clearly taken to chasing very well.

"He's run very creditably in all of his novice chase starts and then we went to the Kim Muir, a race we won with Junior, and he performed very well in that 0-145 handicap.

"It further vindicated he needed all that trip and he was staying on up that hill. We still think he's got a very workable mark. I think the handicapper has been very kind to him and off 139 he is still fairly well handicapped.

"He's not really done anything wrong all season and I wouldn't swap him for just about anything in the race. He's young, he's unexposed. He's not guaranteed to stay, but you'd have him as a short price to stay.

"I know there's been a lot of talk about Nicky Henderson never having won any National before, but when we won this race in 2011 with Beshabar it was with an owner-trainer combination who had never won it before."

Sandy Thomson went close last year with Seeyouatmidnight, who was a close third behind Vicente, and relies upon Seldom Inn this time.

The nine-year-old will be ridden by Derek Fox, who attempts to follow up his victory on One For Arthur in the Grand National at Aintree two weeks ago.

The last jockey to win both Nationals in the same season was Graham Lee, who supplemented his Aintree triumph on Amberleigh House in 2004 with victory on Grey Abbey at Ayr.

"I'm looking forward to it. He has his own way of jumping but if he gets a clear round I'd be hopeful of a big run," said Thomson.

"I think he'll stay the trip. He's by Double Trigger and has a stout pedigree. You never know until you try but I've always thought he was an out-and-out stayer.

"It would be brilliant if Derek could win. He came in and schooled him the other day.

"The schooling went to plan. This horse has his own way of doing things but Derek worked it out pretty quickly, so we were delighted with how it went."

Southfield Royale was a faller in the Kim Muir, but his trainer Neil Mulholland said: "He's come out of it well. It's just one of those things about chasing I suppose, but he's well and has schooled well since Cheltenham.

"He finished fourth in last year's four-miler which worked out very well with Minella Rocco, and Native River winning the Hennessy and Welsh National.

"We're very happy with him and his preparation. He's in good order."

Mark Walford believes a confidence-boosting win over hurdles at Kelso has done the 11-year-old Trustan Times the world of good.

The North Yorkshire handler said: " You never go into a race like this confident, but we're hopeful he might be able to get into the first five or six.

"His jumping sometimes hasn't been the best over fences, but he's big and strong enough to brush through one.

"He finished third in it one year (2014). Obviously he's older now but in the last few weeks he's just started to show a bit of spark at home."

Stuart Crawford feels Fine Rightly is back to himself after being below-par for his last two races.

"Hopefully he's coming back into form again now," said the County Antrim handler.

"Ideally, we'd like softer ground, but as long as it's safe he'll take his chance.

"There was a bit of a virus, or something, hanging over him for his last two runs and I think that was down to those two disappointing efforts.

"The last day at Kelso it looked like he was going to be the winner and by how far, but he didn't get home and that was probably the lowest-rated race he's run in in the last two years, so there had to be something amiss with him."

Pat Griffin was delighted with Portrait King's performance in the Topham at Aintree where he was third to Ultragold over the Grand National fences.

"He ran very well at Aintree and we just hope he can run the same race again," said the County Dublin-based trainer.

"The extra distance will be up his street and he should benefit from the ground as well."

Griffin also saddles Man With Van, who was the last horse to make the cut in the maximum 30-runner field.

Champion jockey Richard Johnson, who was successful in this race on Beshabar, takes the mount on Kruzhlinin for Minehead trainer Philip Hobbs.

"The plan has been to go to Ayr with Kruzhlinin for the Scottish Grand National," he told his Betway blog.

"He's very well at home and definitely prefers a flat track. The decent ground should also play to his strengths.

"He's had a good season already, although this would be a real high to finish with."

Aidan Coleman is looking for a decent display from his mount, the Jonjo O'Neill-trained Another Hero.

"I've only ridden him once. He ran really well at Doncaster when he finished third (in the Sky Bet Chase)," the jockey told Racing UK.

"He ran in the Kim Muir the last day and finished midfield. You never know in the Scottish National. You can't be sure which horses are going to turn up as it's the end of the season for most of them.

"He seems to go on any ground and I'm hoping for a good run."

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