The second Grand National in the space of two weeks, and once again it was a thriller, as the Scottish Grand National at Ayr produced another spectacular finish. The closing stages were in fact pretty similar to the Aintree showpiece, with the leader praying for the line as the second placed runner made up ground hand over fist.
Given an excellent ride by Adam Wedge, Joe Farrell was sent into the lead three from home and soon opened up what looked a significant advantage. It takes some seeing out four miles around Ayr though and that lead quickly diminished after the final flight. One of the gambles of the race, Ballyoptic, mowing down the leader all the way to the line, but not quite getting there. Joe Farrell clinging on by a nose.
Only a second career chase success for the winner, who has had his health issues over the years. An easy win at Newbury last time out suggested that Rebecca Curtis may have found the key though, and so it proved with this big career best effort.
The very fact that Curtis was even in Scotland should probably have signalled that something was afoot. Based in Wales, Curtis had never set foot north of the border, never mind had a runner there. The market didn’t seem to latch on to this factor though with the nine year old being sent off as a 33/1 shot on the day.
From The Greenham To The Guineas For Garfield
Following the monstrous display by Masar in the Craven at Newmarket which propelled the Godolphin runner towards the head of the 2000 Guineas market, Saturday saw the latest key race in the build up to the first classic of the season, with this years Greenham Stakes at Newbury.
There may have been only around two lengths between the first four home, but connections of the winner James Garfield saw enough to commit to the Guineas route. Kept to the near side by Frankie Dettori, the George Scott trained runner slowly got on top in the straight and if anything appeared to be going on again at the line. That bodes well for the step up to a mile, and with Dettori free to ride, this son of Exceed And Excel will likely have the man for the big occasion in the saddle once again. The bookies make James Garfield a 25/1 shot for the Newmarket Classic.
The race also offered some encouragement for fans of one of the juvenile stars of last season, Expert Eye. Having flopped badly on his final start at two, this was much more like it from the Sir Michael Stoute runner who was beaten just ¾l in filling the runners up spot. This Acclamation colt is still being afforded plenty of respect by the compilers, offering 16/1 for the 2000 Guineas.
Happy Retirement Cue Card!
This week also finally brought confirmation of news we have been expecting for a while now. The absolute legend of a racehorse that is Cue Card has now officially been retired. Set to spend the remainder of his days at Colin Tizzard’s home, this nine-time Grade 1 winner – including a King George, two Cheltenham Festival triumphs and two Ascot Chase’s – was undoubtedly one of the most popular horses in training over the past decade, and the racing world wishes him well.
And Farewell Our Duke
Saddest of all the stories this week though was the news that last season’s hugely impressive Irish Grand National winner, Our Duke, had tragically passed away at his yard. Still only eight years old, the horse described as a gentle giant by trainer Jessica Harrington suffered a massive heart attack and could not be saved. Sad news for connections regarding a horse who had plenty more to offer.