Keith Melrose goes in search of Saturday's monster Jackpot pool at Ayr.
"Ostensibly the toughest race on the card, the Scottish National could wind up being a real line-saver."
There will no doubt be some who are placing a Jackpot for the first time today, lured in by the seven-figure prize, so we'll quickly run through the rules of the bet before we begin.
Unlike the Placepot, in which you can perm with as little as a 5p unit stake, the Jackpot has a minimum unit stake of 50p, with a minimum total spend of £1. Normally (and, indeed, in this article's suggestions) the bet will be a permutation, meaning that multiple selections are taken in one or more of the races; this obviously raises your chances, but also your total stake. The amount of permutations (or 'lines') on your bet can be calculated by multiplying the amount of selections in each race. Hopefully it'll all be clear in the selections at the bottom of this article. Here goes...
13:30 - Leg one and I'm already wishing this was a Placepot, as there are a good few in this race that are in-form yet not recently in the habit of winning. The three that fit most readily into that category are Rhymers Ha', Mubrook and Shanroe Society, and we'll take the last two of that trio as Rhymers Ha' may well struggle to get home. We'll also include Reaping The Reward, who has been off nearly two years but makes his handicap debut from a potentially lenient mark: it doesn't take a great leap of imagination to see a horse that has beaten Tap Night being well handicapped off 115.
14:05 - In a seamless link, Tap Night actually features in leg two, the Future Champions Novices' Chase, and what's more we're going to include him, a second-placed finish to Captain Conan at Aintree a fortnight ago the best form on offer in this race. Rajdhani Express' form isn't far behind that level, and having come in a Cheltenham Festival handicap it's arguably more solid, while Grand Annual fourth Drumshambo is likeable and may well improve for the return to two and a half miles, which would put him thereabouts.
14:40 - A select field for the Scottish Champion Hurdle, but it can be whittled down to three that holds especially strong claims. Court Minstrel won the Sussex equivalent of this race last time in fine fashion and appeals as still well handicapped despite a 10-lb rise in the weights. Ifandwhybutnot caught the eye when ninth in the County Hurdle, taken wide throughout and paying for covering the extra distance late in the day. Finally, Grumeti has to sneak in there; his absence since winning a Grade 1 at Aintree last spring means he's probably all-or-nothing, but he was one of the best juveniles around last season and could be well treated on a BHA mark of 153.
15:15 - A fairly weak race for a listed handicap, though a couple of those that posed a threat being non-runners helps us out somewhat. We can attack with two, namely Petit Robin and Sacre Toi. Petit Robin has developed into a thoroughly likeable character this term under crack amateur Nico de Boinville, though the switch to crack professional Barry Geraghty is no bad thing. Sacre Toi strictly has it to do on figures, but given the rate at which he's been progressing this season it'd be foolhardy to rule out further improvement. Pepite Rose is respected, but reluctantly left out in a bid to save some lines.
15:50 - Ostensibly the toughest race on the card, the Scottish National could wind up being a real line-saver. Basically, Rival d'Estruval is a standout and could be simply too good from a BHA mark of 143. He looked set to beat Back In Focus when falling two out at the Festival, and what price would that horse be in this race off such a mark? We're going to include a reserve option, though, and Our Mick looks the best option: he appeals as a stayer and is usually a prominent racer, something which often puts horses at an advantage in races like this.
16:25 - It'll be torturous if we actually get this far, but leg six looks the best opportunity we'll get for a banker. That banker is Kian's Delight. Progressive last summer, he returned with an underwhelming run in the County Hurdle but looked much more like his old self when a staying-on eighth at Aintree last time. Finally granted the sort of stamina test that will suit at the same time as his yard hits form, everything looks right for Kian's Delight to deliver on the last leg. And if he does, I'll see you on the beach in Antigua!
13:30 - 5, 6, 11
14:05 - 1, 2, 6
14:40 - 1, 4, 8
15:15 - 1, 9
15:50 - 4, 6
16:25 - 8
= 108 lines