IT’S not easy to go back to the Coral Scottish Grand National a year after you have run well in it, and win it. History tells you that.

Vicente won it in 2016 off a handicap rating of 146 as a seven-year-old, then went back as an eight-year-old in 2017 and, racing off the same handicap rating, won it again. And he was the first horse since Androma in 1984 and 1985 to win back-to-back renewals.

Kitty’s Light didn’t win the race last year, but he ran a big race to finish second to his stable companion Win My Wings, and you can easily argue the case for him this year. For starters, he is 3lb lower in the handicap now than he was then. He is racing off a mark of 140 today, compared with 143 last year. And he goes into the race in better form this year, having won the Eider Chase at Newcastle last time.

The goodish ground today should suit him, and he is a year older this year, a year stronger. It is difficult to believe that he is still only seven. The last six-year-old to win the Scottish National was Earth Summit, and he was so good he went on to win the Welsh National and the Aintree Grand National. Goodish ground and a longish distance is a combination that suits Kitty’s Light well, and it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see him go one better than last year today.


That said, at around three times his price, Elvis Mail represents a more attractive betting proposition. Nick Alexander’s horse is nine now, but he remains wholly unexposed over staying trips. A winner over two miles over hurdles and over fences, he recorded his first win over two and a half miles when he landed a handicap chase at Ayr only last October off a handicap rating of 137.

He ran well too in the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster in January on his first attempt at three miles. He was ridden conservatively that day, stepping up in distance, but he stayed on nicely to take third place behind Cooper’s Cross and Cap Du Nord, admittedly after the departure of a few of his rivals at the last couple of fences.

A first-flight departer himself in the Coral Cup at Cheltenham last month, he stepped up in trip again last time at Kelso, and stayed on strongly to win a handicap chase over three and a quarter miles off a mark of 138. That performance was up there with the best of his life, over the longest trip over which he had ever raced.

He wasn’t stopping at the end of that race either, he left the impression that he could get further. He has every chance of staying today’s extreme trip.

He used to be thought of as a soft ground horse, but it may be that he just needs to have an emphasis on stamina, and it was no softer than good to soft when he won at Ayr in October. That win also enhanced his form at the track. His record at Ayr reads 3421141, and his record at Ayr over fences reads 141.

He goes into the race in good form, he could improve again for the step up in trip, and a 5lb hike for his latest win was not harsh. It sees him set to carry 11st 3lb, 11st exactly when his regular rider Bruce Lynn’s claim is taken into account, in a race that has been won by a horse carrying 11st or more four times in the last 10 years.

Big chance

Anna Bunina will attempt to emulate Sea Pigeon in the Scottish Champion Hurdle 70 minutes earlier. No horse has won back-to-back renewals of the race since Peter Easterby’s horse in 1977 and 1978 – Bird’s Nest won two all right, but not in consecutive years – but John McConnell’s mare has a big chance of achieving that feat.

She has been busy in the last 12 months, but she obviously thrives on her racing and John McConnell has his horses in tremendous form. The Poet’s Voice mare is 12lb higher in the handicap than she was last year, but she has earned that type of hike.

She ran a big race in the Liffey Handicap Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival, before splitting Queens Brook and Brandy Love in the Grade 3 Quevega Hurdle at Punchestown in February. Then she went to Cheltenham and faired better in the County Hurdle than the bare form suggests, on ground that should have been softer than ideal for her. She only finished ninth in the end, but she travelled down the hill well, before she just tired on the run back up it.

She should be happier on the better ground today, and back at Ayr, in a race in which she finished second in 2021 and which she won last year. You can be sure that her trainer has had the race at least in the back of his mind for a while, and we know that Ben Harvey is big value for his 5lb claim.


1pt win, Anna Bunina, 2.25 Ayr, 13/2 (generally)

1pt each-way, Elvis Mail, 3.35 Ayr, 16/1 (generally)

One of Donn’s three recommended bets last week was Sire Du Berlais, winner of the Liverpool Hurdle (SP 8/1).