THERES a quite wonderful day of racing on Saturday with the Scottish Grand National from Ayr and the first two Classic trials of the season at Newbury, and we start on the Flat with top class renewals of both the Fred Darling and Greenham.
In the Fillies' trial Al Thakhira is the 11/4 fav for Marco Botti after her win in the Group 2 Rockfel Stakes last October although she has to put behind a poor run at Santa Anita last time when she finished last behind the ill-fated Chriselliam in the Breeders' Cup Fillies' Turf.
She may not have let herself down on the firm ground on that occasion, but should be more at home on today's forecast good to soft ground, with further showers expected.
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Her winning time in the Rockfel was about half a second slower than that clocked by War Command in the Middle Park earlier on in the card so she must go close but preference, with the reapplication of a hood, is for Frankel's half-sister Joyeuse (2.20).
The selection is 11/2 with BetVictor and, with the stable of Lady Cecil in such good form, she is taken to reward each way support.
One note of caution she wouldn't want any significant rain although the current going of good to soft ground is not a concern.
I always felt the filly would thrive over a mile this term as long as she settles, having pulled too hard when disappointing in the Group 1 Cheveley Park on her last start as a juvenile. She is currently 33/1 for the 1000 Guineas and I hope to see those odds contract later this afternoon.
The colts' race can go to the unbeaten Kingman (2.55) who created such a favourable impression when scoring on debut at Newmarket and followed up in the Group 3 Solario Stakes on his only subsequent start.
The Hannon stable have saddled the winner of the Greenham four times in the last seven years and Richard Jr saddles Night Of Thunder who scored twice in quick succession in October on soft ground.
Kingman is 15/8 at BetVictor to maintain his unbeaten record and I hope he lays down the gauntlet to Ballydoyle and their Guineas favourite Australia.
The opening mile maiden is often won by a useful sort and Mutakayef (1.20) is taken to go one better than on debut when runner up in a Newmarket maiden over 7f. The step up to a mile should suit this son of Sea The Stars who holds entries in the Guineas, Dante and Derby.
At Ayr, Eduard (2.05) can land the Future Champion Novices' Chase despite the fact that he would be better off in a handicap with Alan King's Valdez who finished a close fifth in the Arkle last time and is likely to be well served by the step up to 2m 4f.
The selection ought to be fresher than most having only had the three starts this term winning two and, although he needs to brush up his jumping, he has always been highly-regarded by his trainer whose patience can be rewarded.
The big betting race of the day is the Scottish Grand National and I hope the progressive grey Roalco De Farges (3.50) can score for Philip Hobbs and Richard Johnson.
The selection is 14/1 at BetVictor (each way first five) and must race from 5lb out of the handicap with only 11 of the 30-strong field running from their correct handicap mark, given the enigmatic teenager Tidal Bay lines up only seven days after being hampered and unseating Sam Twiston-Davies at the Canal Turn in the National.
Trustan Times is well-treated on his hurdles form and ran a cracker over the smaller obstacles at Cheltenham last time. He would be very hard to beat if his jumping holds up but that is a very big if!
The form of Scotswell's (5.00) win at Kelso last time was given a timely boost when runner up Fentara hosed up back at the Borders track and in the circumstances the handicapper could have been lenient in only raising him by 3lbs.
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