RACING AHEAD: Scottish Grand National preview

RACING AHEAD with Tony McCormick
RACING AHEAD with Tony McCormick

Racing pundit Tony McCormick from this week looks at the former home of the Scottish National – Bogside.

The Scottish Grand National was first contested over 127 years ago and has been held at Ayr Racecourse since 1966 after the original Bogside course closed down. Racing began there in 1808, and the West of Scotland Grand National was introduced in 1867.

In some ways it was remarkable that racing continued as long as it did, for there were several things Bogside didn’t have going for it. For a start, it was sited in an awkward spot, sandwiched between the railway and the rivers Garnock and Irvine.

A heap of shale on the infield blocked off the view for most of the track and for most of the spectators. The sandhills on the far side of the course meant there was never any room for expansion.

It took until the 1970 for the track to be fully enclosed by running rails. Until that time, it was not uncommon for a loose horse to make its way over the sand dunes and swim out into the estuary.

Then there were the fences themselves. The right-handed, two-mile circuit had the usual mix, with nine plain fences, two open ditches and a water jump. Just as at Aintree, there was a long run in of 370 yards, on which horses passed a plain fence and the water jump.

But there was little to help a horse find its place at the jumps. With all those challenges, it’s perhaps no surprise that in 1963 the Levy Board included Bogside in its list of 12 racecourses which it would no long support financially.

They reckoned that Bogside would need £80,000 spending on it to bring the facilities up to a reasonable standard. And so racing came to an end there, on 10 April 1965, although point-to-point meetings continued until 1994.

The Scottish Grand National is a very popular race. It’s always a surprise to note that over the years the race has produced many close finishes, despite it being run over four miles and one furlong.

This weekend’s showpiece has another massive Irish presence to it. Rogue Angel is set to form part of a very strong Irish raiding party at the weekend which also includes at the six-day stage current favourite Cause Of Causes, Tony Martin’s Heathfield and the Willie Mullins-trained Measureofmydreams.

Paul Nicholls could run Southfield Theatre, Vincente, Benvolio and Vivaldi Collonges as he looks to retain his trainers’ title while Nicky Henderson’s Vyta Du Roc is another leading contender.

Sausalito Sunrise looks set to carry top weight following the expected defections of Many Clouds and The Last Samuri which means Philip Hobbs’ charge is topping the list and a rise in the weights of 7lb will follow. Seeyouatmidnight has been left in by Sandy Thomson after coming up short in the RSA Chase but will be suited by the marathon trip.