Tony Calvin: Give Ballyculla another chance to shine in Scottish National

We're off to Ayr on Saturday for the Scottish Grand National
We're off to Ayr on Saturday for the Scottish Grand National

Tony Calvin has been in hot form recently, tipping up the Lincoln winner at a juicy ante-post price before finding 33/1 and 16/1 winners at Aintree last week, and today our man takes an early look at Saturday's Scottish Grand National...


"I think he is well-handicapped off a mark of 136 - that is the same mark as when he went off favourite at Newcastle - and he had a confidence-booster in winning a three-runner race at Wetherby last time."

Back Ballyculla at 26.025/1 in the Scottish Grand National

Thankfully, Aintree proved a far more happy hunting and punting ground for us than Cheltenham did - let's face it, it could not have been worse had I drawn a complete blank at the three-day meeting last week - and the success of the Grand National, on all levels, has led to some calls for a consolation race for those horses who didn't get in to the race.

Well, I've got news for you. We already have one. It is called the Scottish Grand National, and it is this weekend's biggest betting race.

The likes of Cause Of Causes and Pineau De Re missed the cut at Aintree, and the Ayr marathon represents an excellent chance for the former in particular, the runaway Kim Muir winner, to gain a measure of compensation, albeit from a much higher mark than he would have run off in the big one last Saturday.

Talking of measures, Measureofmydreams heads the betting at 11.010/1 and is the latest Willie Mullins horse to try to put the final nail in Paul Nicholls' title aspirations. And his third in the National Hunt Chase last time suggests that he may do so.

But we don't play at the front-end of the market and I am going to take another chance with Ballyculla at 26.025/1 win-only on the exchange, though he does need 11 horses above him in the weights to come out to get a run in this maximum 30-runner contest.

There is an issue of whether he can cut the mustard in big fields, and he fell when I backed him when he was gambled on for the Eider Chase, but I am willing to forgive him that lapse. He was going well at the time and I just think that the key to him could be Gavin Sheehan giving him plenty of daylight and a clear sight of his fences, and not burying him on the inside or behind horses.

I think he is well-handicapped off a mark of 136 - that is the same mark as when he went off favourite at Newcastle - and he had a confidence-booster in winning a three-runner race at Wetherby last time. And he acts on any ground, which helps, as from the various forecasts I have looked at I can't quite work out if we will get good or heavy ground!

If you back him, then there is a fair possibility he will get balloted out. If he does, then you get your money back. But you may want to wait if you are an each-way player, as I imagine that generous Betfair Sportsbook may be considering five places on Saturday morning... (don't blame me if they aren't, or don't...).

Apologies to anyone in Toners pub in Dublin on Saturday afternoon when Ivan Grozny was dotting up at Aintree, as I did let fly with a few encouraging expletives as the horse was pulling clear between the final two flights.

I dare say none of the others in the boozer cared too much - it was the end of a long afternoon, anyway - but they may get a chance of their own to cheer him on in the Scottish Champion Hurdle this weekend as he trades at the 5.59/2 favourite to follow up under just a 5lb penalty.

He will clearly take a fair bit of beating if he turns up, so I would rather see the final declarations before stepping in. Sign Of a Victory is an obvious alternative but he wouldn't want any rain between now and Saturday.

Anyone who saw Sinfonietta dot up by six lengths at Nottingham last week has to be interested in his chances in Newbury's Spring Cup.

Okay, that was a far less competitive race than this, and he has gone up considerably in the weights, but he absolutely sluiced up in similar ground to what he will experience on Saturday and he could be another example of how it can pay to pay particular attention to stable form.

A few people that I know, and work with, pretty much ignore it - or rather don't place it high up on the list as one of the most important factors in winner-finding - but Party Rock's 33-1 win at Aintree was another example of why you simply have to take it into account.

Party Rock's trainer Jennie Candlish hasn't had a great season but that was her fifth winner in a short space of time for a small stable, and that is surely no coincidence. I think I am right in saying that she had a baby in February, and that could have been a reason for the early-season stable lull.

Similarly, Sinfonietta's trainer David Menuisier, is in red-hot form too, with his well-backed Slunovrat winning at Windsor on Monday making it three wins from four turf runners at the time of writing.

But the market obviously hasn't missed him at around 8-1 - or strong-finishing Lincoln fourth Birdman, and the progressive horses with recent winning profiles, or What About Carlo with Ryan Moore jocked up - so this may be a race to sit out until Friday morning when bigger prices, and possibly enhanced each-way terms, may be offered on this big-field handicap.

If you are looking for an interest at a price now though, then maybe Lincoln, who has slipped to a very tempting mark of just 95, fits the bill at around 25-1. But against that he has his fitness and stamina to prove in what promises to be very testing conditions, and he will probably be a bigger price come the weekend.


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Back Ballyculla at 26.025/1 in the Scottish Grand National

You can read Timeform's Scottish Grand National 2016 Runners guide behind the link.

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