Vicente is attempting what no horse has done before by winning three Scottish Nationals, and he’s been a great credit to his trainer Paul Nicholls, but he’s not looked quite the same horse this season, so will have his work cut out to defy a mark of 150.
His last two runs have seen him let down badly by his jumping, and while it’s possible to excuse that partially on grounds of unsuitable terrain, his display at Cheltenham last month was woeful, and he won’t even finish this race, let alone win it, if he doesn’t improve markedly in that department.
I doff my cap to Mr Nicholls if he has wrought the necessary transformation in a few short weeks, but logic tells me to oppose him heavily in the place market.
I’m similarly keen to oppose Beyond The Clouds in the Scottish Champion Hurdle, and while he’s a likeable type, he appears to face a daunting task having his first start in handicaps or indeed in graded company here.
He is not used to plying his trade in a competitive field like this and I can see him being outjumped by more battle-hardened rivals, which will put him on the back foot, in more ways than one. Even if his opening mark is lenient, and that’s quite a leap of faith, he’s surely going to need more experience before he can fulfil his early promise.
Paul Nicholls has won the Future Champion Novices’ Chase six time in the past and relies on Adrien du Pont this time. In saying that, the ex-French gelding always tends to finish weakly, and that is in some part down to a tendency to bleed, as he did at Ascot last time.
His best chance of winning is to sneak an early lead, but that route will surely be denied him by Bigmartre, and he faces an uphill task if headed early. He is, in my view, the least likely winner of the quintet engaged, and should also be taken on for a place as a result.
- 14:55 Ayr – Lay Beyond The Clouds for a place @ 3.0 or shorter
- 15:30 Ayr – Lay Adrien du Pont for a place @ 2.9 or shorter
- 16:05 Ayr – Lay Vicente for a place @ 3.3 or shorter