Festival victor Bear stands ground for Scottish National

Host of big names still in contention for Ayr showpiece

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Cheltenham Festival winner Beware The Bear tops the weights at the confirmation stage for the Coral Scottish Grand National.

Vintage Clouds, a first-fence faller in Saturday’s Randox Health Grand National at Aintree, also remains in contention to try again a week later at Ayr – among 34 still on target.

Sue Smith’s grey is set to receive 11lb from Nicky Henderson’s top-weight, three more than when finishing a one-and-a-quarter-length second to Beware The Bear in last month’s Ultima Handicap Chase.

Big River is another of those prominent in the market for this weekend’s four-mile marathon who may graduate from the Ultima, in which he finished a promising fourth.

Lucinda Russell’s nine-year-old will be bidding to keep Scotland’s biggest jumps prize at home.

Other possibles for a field which can number a maximum 30 include Alan King’s Dingo Dollar, Nigel Twiston-Davies’ young stayer Blue Flight and his narrow 2017 runner-up Cogry, Neil Mulholland’s Newbury winner Carole’s Destrier and Caroline Bailey’s Eider Chase hero Crosspark.

Chidswell is another contender, for Nicky Richards, seeking a hat-trick after his Grimthorpe Chase victory at Doncaster – in which Dingo Dollar was runner-up and the reopposing Brian Boranha and Beau Du Brizais were also beaten.

Crosshue Boy, a novice winner at this meeting last year from Sean Doyle’s County Wexford yard, is the only Irish challenger.

The card also features the CPMS Scottish Champion Hurdle, for which 21 are confirmed.

Possibles for that limited handicap include Henderson’s Champion Hurdle pair Verdana Blue and Brain Power.

Verdana Blue tops the weights by just 1lb from her stablemate, while Henderson’s novice Mister Fisher is still in the reckoning.

Further down the list is Dan Skelton’s well-touted Nube Negra and, at the foot of the weights and currently 8lb out of the handicap, Charlie Mann’s improving juvenile Capone.

Smith, responsible for last year’s winner Midnight Shadow, may bid to follow up with her novice Captain Moirette, who is on a hat-trick after successes at Catterick and Haydock.

John McConnell’s Pearl Of The West is the sole Irish contender.

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