Scottish Grand National Festival Betting Tips – Saturday 13th April 2019

Scottish Flag

For those still infected with Grand National fever – and, following the exploits of Tiger Roll last weekend, we imagine there are a fair few out of you out there – the Scottish racecourse of Ayr serves up a real treat this coming weekend. This year falling only seven days after the Aintree extravaganza, we have the 2019 edition of the Scottish Grand National.

The field and fences may not be quite as big as on Merseyside, but the stamina demands remain much the same and Ayr can always be relied on to put on an excellent show.

Invariably one of the highest turnover betting races of the year, the Scottish Grand National itself quite rightly takes centre stage, but there’s plenty more on offer besides on what is a bumper eight race card. Here we run the rule over each of the day’s events.

About the Ayr Scottish Grand National Meeting

One of the most important jump racing events in the British horse racing calendar is the Grand National that is held at Aintree Racecourse every year. As with most important events in the industry, however, there are alternatives hosted around the world and one such example comes in the form of the Scottish Grand National at Ayr.

Hosted in the wake of the English National, the Scottish equivalent follows a similar path of having the main event come in the middle of a Festival of racing, based over two days and featuring a number of excellent events. Here we’ll obviously concentrate on the National, but we’ll take a look at the races that surround it too and give you a bit more information about some of them.

Ayr Racecourse

Two Days Of Racing

For those that are only interested in the biggest races it might come as something of a surprise that the Scottish National is surrounded by races either side of it. It’s an attempt by the race organisers to ensure that it is given the build-up that they feel it deserves, following in the footsteps of other big events by having a number of exciting events on the race card.

Here’s a look at the race card from the 2018 running of the Scottish Grand National, telling you about the races that were run then in order to give you an idea of the sort of races that are likely to be on the line-up moving forward.

RacePrize MoneyAgesObstacles
Day One
Novices' Hurdle £15,300 4 Years Old + 9 Hurdles
Handicap Hurdle £16,800 4 Years Old + 9 Hurdles
Novices' Handicap Hurdle £16,800 4 Years Old + 12 Hurdles
Handicap Chase £50,000 5 Years Old + 17 Fences
Novices' Chase £16,800 5 Years Old + 13 Fences
Mares' Handicap Hurdle £30,000 4 Years Old + 12 Hurdles
Scotland Handicap Hurdle £16,800 4 Years Old + 10 Hurdles
Day Two
Handicap Chase £40,000 5 Years Old + 13 Fences
Champion Handicap Chase £100,000 5 Years Old + 19 Fences
Champion Hurdle £105,000 4 Years Old + 9 Hurdles
Champion Novices' Chase £45,000 5 Years Old + 18 Fences
Scottish Grand National £215,000 5 Years Old + 27 Fences
Handicap Hurdle £20,000 4 Years Old + 11 Hurdles
Finale Handicap Hurdle £16,800 4 Years Old + 12 Hurdles
National Hunt Flat Race £10,000 4 to 6 Year Old n/a

The Scottish Grand National

There’s really only one place to start when it comes to the Scottish Grand National Meeting and that’s with the main event itself. Taking place over around four miles and boasting twenty-seven fences during its running, the Scottish Grand National is similar to its English cousin in that it is a handicap event. The big different in terms of qualification comes in the fact that it’s for horses aged five and over rather than seven and up.

The History Of The Race

A race known as the West of Scotland Grand National was created in 1858 at a course in Renfrewshire, boasting thirty-two jumps that were mainly made of stone walls. It was moved to Bogside Racecourse in Irvine in 1867, with the first ever winner being a horse called The Elk that was owned by the Duke of Hamilton. It is the race run at Irvine that is considered to be the first official Scottish Grand National.

It was originally contested over three miles but had just shy of an extra mile added to its running in 1880. That was also the first year that it took in its current moniker of the Scottish Grand National. Nothing much of note happened in the years that followed, but in 1965 Bogside Racecourse was closed down and the race needed to find a new home. It was transferred to Ayr in 1966 and has remained there ever since, with the r

Unsurprisingly, there are links between the English and Scottish races when it comes to horses that have done well in both. The only one to win the two races in the same season at the time of writing was Red Rum, who pulled it off in 1974. There have been a number of them that have won one one year and then the other the year after, with the first being Music Hall who won the English event in 1922.

Whilst the aforementioned Red Rum is the only horse to win the English National three times, three horses have done it at the Scottish event. Couvrefeu II is the only horse to have won consecutive Nationals, doing so between 1911 and 1913. Southern Hero pulled it off in 1934, 1936 and 1939 and Queen’s Taste did it in 1953 and 1954 before completing the hat-trick in 1956.

Other Notable Races

A quick look at the race cards of the two days shows you that there are significantly fewer Graded races over the course of the Scottish Grand National Festival than at Aintree earlier in the month. That’s not to say that none of the other races are interesting, of course, but it’s true that there’s less to say about them than those run during the equivalent meeting in Liverpool.

There are two races that are certainly worthy of a brief discussion, however, so here’s a look at the two of them:

Scottish Champion Hurdle

Open to horses aged four and over and run left-handed over a distance of around two miles, the Scottish Champion Hurdle is a limited handicap race that features nine hurdles during its running. In 2018 the prize fund for the race was £105,000, with just shy of £60,000 of that going to the winner.

The event was created in 1966 and was a Listed offering until it was promoted to Grade 2 in 1991. Since 1994 it has been held on the same day as the Scottish National, having been held on the day before prior to then. If you’re looking for some hints for this race from other outings then you might want to have a look at the result of the Champion Hurdle during the Cheltenham Festival.

This can also be seen as something of a clue-giver for the Gold Cup, with Captain Christy winning the Scottish Champion Hurdle in 1973 before winning the Cheltenham event the following year. Two horses have won the race twice, both with avian-related names. Sea Pigeon managed back-to-back victories in 1977 and 1978 and Birds Nest won it in 1979 and 1981.

Future Champion Novices' Chase

This race for novice chasers used to be contested over two miles, but it was extended to its present length of two miles, four furlongs and one hundred and ten yards in 1988. That was also when it was given its current title, gaining Grade 1 status three years later. It was downgraded to Grade 2 in 1995.

As the name suggests, this race is all about the future and both Gingembre and Grey Abbey in 2000 and 2001 respectively won this race before going on to win the Scottish Grand National the following year.

Run left-handed, the race is open to five-year-olds with a weight of eleven stone. There’s a seven pound allowance for mares and horses that have won a Class 1 weight-for-age chase get a five pound penalty. Winners of a Class 2 weight-for-age chase or a Class 1 handicap chase receive a penalty of three pounds. There are seventeen fences to be jumped during its running.

The Course at Ayr

We don’t normally look at courses in these pieces, but given that a lot of English racing fans won’t necessarily know much about Ayr it’s worth giving it a quick look. Opened in 1907, Ayr Racecourse boasts the ability to host both flat and jump racing. The town’s history actually dates back much earlier than that, with racing believed to have been hosted in the area as long ago as 1576.

The Western Meeting, which is considered to be the most prestigious meeting hosted in the town, was established in 1824 and the Ayr Gold Cup became a handicap offering in 1855. Nowadays it’s Europe’s richest sprint handicap, which perhaps tells you something about its position in the racing calendar. The track was too small for the ever-growing event and so a new location for it was found in 1907.

The new course was based around the same design as Newbury, with the major difference between the two being that the straight at Ayr is six furlongs as opposed to a mile. The jump track was added in 1950, sixteen years before the Scottish Grand National was moved to the venue.

The flat course is a left-handed oval track that is twelve furlongs in length, with a run-in of half a mile. There’s a chute of six furlongs that comes into the track after about a furlong. Considered to be a basic but fair track, the undulations are gentle.

The jump course also races left-handed, based over one and a half miles with nine fences available during that. The course runs downhill until the home turn, at which point it begins a gentle rise to the run-in of just over two hundred yards. It is Scotland’s premier course and offers a big test to competitors, usually hosting around sixteen meetings over the course of a year.