Champion trainer Nicky Henderson will attempt to win the Coral Scottish Grand National for the first time at Ayr on Saturday when he runs Cheltenham hero Beware The Bear in the £215,000 contest.
Set to carry top weight of 11st 12lb and almost certain to be ridden by Nico de Boinville the nine year-old will relish the going at the track which is expected to be good.
If Beware The Bear can replicate his Ultima Chase win at Cheltenham which saw him see off the challenges of Vintage Clouds and Lake View Lad he will have every chance despite having to concede weight all round.
One trainer who has been successful in the race is Alan King who won in 2013 with Godsmejudge and this time round he is set to saddle Dingo Dollar who ran second in the £100,000 novices’ chase at the course on Scottish National day last year.
Last time out Dingo Dollar was second in the Grimthorpe Chase at Doncaster to the Nicky Richards trained Chidswell but has an 8lb pull in the weights for a nine length defeat and this puts the King horse in with a great chance of turning the tables on his rival this time.
Scotland’s best hope in the country’s richest race could be the Lucinda Russell trained Big River who finished fourth behind Beware The Bear at Cheltenham and who is 9lb better off in the weights with that rival.
A field of 30 runners is expected to go to post in front of a sell-out crowd of more than 18,000.
The CPMS Scottish Champion Hurdle has a prize fund of £105,000 and will feature some of the top two mile hurdlers in Britain and Ireland with Paul Nicholls likely to run Grand Sancy, a five-year old who has already won a Grade 2, and Sandown Imperial Cup winner Malaya.
Dan Skelton is another trainer likely to have more than one runner in the Scottish Champion Hurdle with Sofia’s Rock a former Flat horse who looks to have the credentials to do well in a race like this.
The £100,000 J & D Pierce Novices’ Championship Handicap Chase is the target for Blue Fight trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies and the mount of Callum Bewley.
The opening day of the two day Festival on Friday features the Hillhouse Quarry Chase, Listed Race, where Borders trainer Sandy Thomson could run the French bred eight year-old Dimple.
There are still tickets available for Ladies Day on Friday.