Our expert takes a look through the field for the Scottish Champion Hurdle and picks out a challenger who looks set to make a big impact at the Scottish Grand National meeting
Ayr racecourse will welcome a capacity crowd of Scottish racing enthusiasts through their gates on Scottish Grand National day in two week's time. Before the long distance chasers hit the course later in the afternoon, a large field of two mile hurdlers will take to the track and contest the 51st renewal of the Scottish Champion Hurdle.
) is the current ante-post favourite for this Grade 2 Limited Handicap, following a decent showing at the Cheltenham Festival. After enjoying an unbeaten novice campaign, Alan King’s charge came crashing back down to earth when he was swamped in the large Greatwood Handicap field and trailed home amongst the final finishers. He wasn’t seen again until Cheltenham last month, where he came home less than three lengths behind Arctic Fire in the County Hurdle in fifth.
) has always been good at finding a way to lose a race and that was the case again at Cheltenham. Arctic Fire was there for the taking, but Nicky Henderson charge lost out agonisingly by a neck. Sceau Royal
) comfortably won the Grade 2 Elite Hurdle at Wincanton in the autumn and finished just over two lengths behind Yanworth in the Kingwell Hurdle. He comes to Ayr on the back of an encouraging sixth place finish in the Champion Hurdle - however, history is against Sceau Royal and L’Ami Serge, as no horse has carried 11-10 to the title since Staunch Friend in 1993.
) career has tailed off significantly since winning the Adonis Hurdle at Kempton last season. He was leading for much of the trip at Wincanton, but as Sceau Royal passed him over the last, he clipped the top of the hurdle and came crashing to the ground. That tumble seemed to set the tone for the rest of his season, but he ran on well from quite a way back to finish sixth in a handicap at the Aintree Festival, so he could be returning to something near his better form.
(9/1 William Hill
) fared much better than his Ayr rival in his Aintree Festival, returning to form with a strong victory in the Pinsent Masons Handicap Hurdle at Aintree. He bounded clear of his persuers after the second-last hurdle and looked extremely comfortable triumphing over a decent field.
Peace and Co
) was expected to make his long-awaited return to action at Cheltenham, but that comeback failed to materialised. The former Triumph Hurdle winner was removed from action by Henderson at the end of a disappointing campaign last spring and it would be exciting to see him return to the track in Scotland.Many of the Scottish Champion Hurdle entrants featured prominently in the County Hurdle at Cheltenham.
(11/1 William Hill
) has been in excellent form all season and sealed the biggest win of his career in the Imperial Cup at Sandown last month. He will carry a tiny weight with him to post in Scotland and he has to be considered a serious threat to this title.
As does Mohaayed
), who was seventh over the line in the blanket finish at the end of the County Hurdle. Dan Skelton’s charge ran well in classy company during the early stages of the season and romped to an easy 14 length victory on his pre-Cheltenham prep run.
Big things were expected of Tommy Silver
) as he went into his five-year-old season, but up until recently, Paul Nicholls' charge had flattered to deceive. He edged a very narrow win over Bertimont at Taunton, before finishing eleventh in the Martin Pipe, but a much more convincing victory at Plumpton last weekend will give Nicholls plenty of encouragement.
You could make a case for many of these talented two-milers winning the Grade 2 title and plenty of value can be found further down the betting. However, OZZIE THE OSCAR'S
) inviting price and encouraging festival outing make him an ideal candidate for an each-way punt.
Philip Hobbs charge kicked off this season in the same vein of form he finished his novice hurdling campaign, with a solid win in a Class 3 at Wetherby. He was then forced to pull up in a Listed race on sticky ground at Newbury, before labouring to a distant fourth placed finish when dropping down in class on his next appearance. He carried very heavy weight burdens in both those handicaps, but was handed just 10-03 to carry when he made his festival debut in the County Hurdle.
Had it not been for that stunning late charge from Arctic Fire, Hobbs' charge could easily have won that prestigious title, but he eventually crossed the line third, half a length behind the winner and just a whisker away from L'Ami Serge. He will carry just four pounds more tomorrow than he did at the Cheltenham Festival and three impressive wins during March and April last year shows he really comes into his own on the good spring ground. There is a lot of quality in this year's renewal of the Scottish Champion Hurdle, but Ozzie The Oscar has every chance of being involved in the finish at the second major meeting in a row.
22/4/2017 2:30pm Ayr Scottish Champion Hurdle selection – OZZIE THE OSCAR each-way (12/1 BetVictor)