Full race preview and free betting tips for the 2.40pm Scottish Champion Hurdle at Ayr.
Although the end of the National Hunt season is nearing, the racing on show is still as competitive and exciting as it has been throughout. The main jumps card this weekend comes from Ayr, with the Scottish Champion Hurdle undoubtedly one of the highlights.
Unsurprisingly, the hot favourite is the Nicky Henderson trained MY TENT OR YOURS (11/10 bet365), a horse who has enjoyed a fine season so far, winning the Fighting Fifth and Christmas Hurdle as well as finishing a close second in the Champion Hurdle. Henderson is keen to find out whether the application of headgear will help counter the way this horse pulls early on in his races, a trait which is clearly stopping him from showing his true ability. He's apparently been in great form since the Festival and is by far the classiest horse in the race. The biggest danger to his victory looks to be the weight he has to carry. He shoulders top weight of 11st 10lbs, which is over a stone more than his nearest rival. Despite this, he is still the best horse in the race and should prove very difficult to beat.
Of his rivals, last week's Aintree winner – Court Minstrel (8/1 Ladbrokes) leads the charge. Evan Williams turns this horse out under a penalty just seven days after his Merseyside triumph. The concern here is that this race may have come around a bit too quick, especially with the amount of travelling the horse has endured from the trainer’s South Wales stables. Coming into this season there looked to be a bit of hype and promise about this horse, and it wasn't until last weekend that we were shown a true reflection of his ability. I definitely think he'll be in the place money, but I'd be surprised if he did any better.
The Alan King trained Montbazon (6/1 Coral) ran a blinder to finished a close third in the County Hurdle at Cheltenham last month. The winner of that race, Lac Fontana, won at Aintree last weekend, so the form looks solid. He didn't have the clearest of preparations thanks to a virus in the yard, but with the stable back firing, I'd imagine that he’ll give a strong account of himself.
CLEVER COOKIE (7/1 William Hill) has enjoyed an excellent season for trainer Peter Niven, completing a hat-trick in a hurdle race at Kelso at the beginning of March. He comes into this race fresh, having purposely missed the Cheltenham Festival and most recently Aintree, with this race in mind. He has done very little wrong this season, and looks to have plenty of potential. He's shown that he's a battler, and I really think that if he was associated with a better known trainer his odds would be far shorter. He's a horse on the up and this race is his chance to show what he can do. I'd be very surprised if he wasn't in the first three, so to me he's worth an each-way bet.
Both Flaxen Flare (12/1 SkyBet) and Cotton Mill (20/1 bet365) have the potential to run solid races, but they are both frustrating sorts to have to be on a good day in order to produce their best. Flaxen Flare ran at the Festival and finished fifth in the County Hurdle but couldn't quite make it up the hill and Cotton Mill ran in the Coral Cup and completely flopped, so both would need to improve on their most recent form to challenge here.
Before her last two runs, Cockney Sparrow (16/1 Ladbrokes) was a live contender for the Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham. Her effort when finishing behind My Tent Or Yours in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle was particularly impressive when you consider what the winner has gone on to accomplish. She hasn't quite showed that form since, finishing fifth at Cheltenham behind Quevega, and I can't see why she would suddenly return to form here.
This is probably the most competitive Scottish Champion Hurdle that Ayr has witnessed in a while. The class horse in the race is MY TENT OR YOURS and, despite having suffered a hard race at the Festival and ground conditions softer than ideal, he should prove just too good for his rivals. CLEVER COOKIE looks to be a horse that has gone under the radar. He has done nothing wrong this season, is definitely a horse on the up and is a horse I can see running a big race.
MY TENT OR YOURS (WIN) (11/10 bet365)
CLEVER COOKIE (E/W) (7/1 William Hill)
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