Our expert takes a look through the card at Ayr on the first day of the Scottish Grand National Festival and heads to a competitive Mares' Handicap Hurdle for his NAP of the day.
Scottish racegoers have a cracking card to look forward to today at Ayr, as the Scottish course gears up for the Scottish Grand National tomorrow afternoon. There are several excellent contests to look forward to this afternoon, but the Mares' Handicap Hurdle at 4:50pm looks to be a thoroughly exciting affair.
Timeforwest leads the way in the betting, after recording three dominant victories in her last three appearances. Debdebdeb is the pick of many experts to land the title here in Scotland, after struggling to hold her own in higher company than this all season. Ron's Dream has to be respected, despite carrying top weight, and Jessber's Dream has a strong runner-up finish behind Jer's Girl at Fairyhouse last spring to back up her claims of going one better at this time of year.
The most progressive young mare in the field has to be HAPPY DIVA, who's rating has shot up by almost 20 pounds during the course of the season and she makes plenty of appeal in today's contest.
Kerry Lee will be delighted with the consistency her six-year-old has shown during this campaign. After finishing fifth out of sixth on her seasonal reappearance in a Listed race at Newbury, she trounced a handy field by 18 lengths on her next appearance, before comfortably seeing off Two Swallows - who won well at Cheltenham earlier in the week - on her first appearance of 2017.
She then jumping up into Graded company to finish fourth in the Albert Bartlett River Don at Doncaster, which she followed up with a good runner-up finish behind the highly-rated Colin's Sister in the Grade 2 Jane Seymour Mares' Novices' Hurdle at Sandown. She was narrowly beaten into second again by Lastbutnotleast in-front of the ITV cameras in a Listed race at Doncaster, but all her recent defeats will act as a source of great encouragement for her connections.
Happy Diva is a proven stayer and a very fluent jumper. She will love the ground conditions and Richard Partick's seven-pound claimer will see her carry just 10-10 to the post. If she doesn't hit the front too early, she has every chance of returning to the winners' enclosure on her Scottish debut.
NAP of the day - HAPPY DIVA
(4:50 Ayr, 7/1 bet365