The Minack’s class can tell in Scottish marathon

A WEEK ago The Midnight Club and I managed to negotiate those Grand National fences at Aintree, admittedly in our own good time, and today it’s a case of trying to do a lot better in the Scotttish equivalent at Ayr.

The likes of Becher’s and The Chair may be missing on this occasion, but it is really no less a lottery with over four miles to travel and 30 runners.

I partner The Minack for Paul Nicholls and it is probably a big ask for a horse who has just three races over fences under his belt.

A lot will depend on what he does over the first four or five. If I can get him popping away and into a nice rhythm then we’ll be in business, because The Minack certainly has the ability to go well.

He is a horse with a touch of class and a bit of speed and, while we can’t be sure he will stay this extreme distance, we think he will.

He has only 10-1 to carry and I’m determined to do close to that. I hope it won’t be 10-3 and expect it will be 10-2.

You’d imagine the two to beat are Chicago Grey and Beshabar, who were first and second respectively in the four mile at Cheltenham.

I think The Minack is better than them and they both have to give him a few pounds. But they have a lot more experience than my horse and there is no doubt about them getting the trip either.

That said big handicaps at the end of a season, like the Scottish and Irish Nationals and the Whitbread, are made for novices on the upgrade.

The Minack clearly fits into that category and if I can just get the horse relaxed and travelling sweetly, thus filling him with confidence, then he won’t be far away.

Paul is now rapidly running out of ammunition and provides me with just one other ride, Sanctuaire in the Scottish Champion Hurdle.

This is the way I would sum up this lad. If you are a morning-price punter then he’s not for you, but if in-running is the fix that gets your juices flowing then show real interest.

He can take a fierce hold and I’ll be dropping in at the back in an attempt to get him to settle. If Sanctuaire switches off he has a chance and if not he may as well stay at home-and that’s some nine hours away by lorry in Somerset.

Following the deaths of two horses in the National at Aintree much has been said this week. I have huge respect for horses, having been around them all of my life, but to be truthful the well-being of Peter Toole was of far greater concern.

Don’t get me wrong, I thought the deaths of those horses was dreadful. But the fences were no bigger than any other year and, indeed, I thought were smaller.

Nor did I think we went that fast in the early stages and would describe the pace as even and consistent throughout.

Much has been made about how tired the horses were after the race, but it was a hot day and the National is an endurance test.

For instance you don’t see people, after they have run a marathon, suddenly deciding that 20 press-ups might be a good idea as well.

You hear people trotting out that horses, unlike the jockeys, don’t have a choice when it comes to tackling those Aintree fences.

But do lambs, bullocks, pigs or battery hens have a choice? Compared to them, horses lead a charmed life.

If you were given a choice between being one of those animals, or a horse, and told you might have to jump round Aintree occasionally, you’d go with being a horse every time.

I’m off to Gowran Park tomorrow for four rides and am just hoping to get among the winners. Shifa starts the ball rolling in a mares’ hurdle, which houses a big field.

She is fit and well, but the evidence so far is she’s ordinary, although this does seem to be all about quantity rather than quality.

I’m on Molko Jack for Sean Aherne in a wide-open handicap hurdle. I rode him at Cork and we were chinned on the run in by a 20-1 shot of Francis Flood’s.

I know he’s gone up 4lbs for that, but came away from Cork thinking he’d be hard enough to beat next time. Molko Jack is a terrific jumper and, whatever his fate here, is one you should keep in mind when going over fences.

Allee Garde may be taking on a couple of rivals with high ratings, in the conditions hurdle, but I expect a decent display.

He won nicely at Down Royal, first time over flights, and was far from disgraced behind Bobs Worth in the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham.

Tawaagg, very disappointing at Navan, tries again in a conditions chase. Before he went to Navan, I schooled him and he delighted me. Indeed, I felt he would win that day.

I don’t have any explanation for that effort, but he won on this track before that and let’s hope returning to the scene of the crime will see him in a more favourable light!


At Cheltenham on Thursday, Richard Johnson won a handicap chase on Triggerman.

He gave him a brilliant ride, but was then suspended for five days because the horse was marked.

Richard (left) stayed within the whip guidelines and, instead of a ban, what they should have done was handed him all of the prize-money!

I thought it was ludicrous, a disgrace.

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