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2015 Scottish National at Ayr

Hot on the heels of the centrepiece event that is the Grand National comes the Scottish National, running at Ayr at 15:45 on Saturday afternoon.

The unkind sometimes argue that this is the race for all those horses who weren't good enough for the big event, but to our eyes it's a strong field with a lot of promising but inexperienced runners.

Much as with the Grand National, staying the course is the big issue and it's certainly a question for some of the runners here. Current favourite Gallant Oscar has certainly shown some form over distance, with a run to third at Cheltenham a notable performance.

He's placed third and fourth in his last two long distance attempts, notably each on very different ground. He's certainly going to be worth a look on the day, and the best place we've found to back him is at Coral, who are offering 10/1.

That run to third at Cheltenham might well have been a fourth for Gallant Oscar, though, had Indian Castle not been compromised by Pendra on the run to the line.

Indian Castle ran an excellent race that day, and the three mile one furlong handicap chase is certainly not a bad sighter for spotting stayers. It was his best effort for a while since changing stables, and more importantly it showed us that he can run on good ground and perform well.

Previously he was considered to be something of a mudlark, but if he can perform on good ground with the stamina of a horse who can take race victories in a swamp then he's definitely worth keeping an eye on.

He's a little higher in the weights than Gallant Oscar, but you can pick him up at SkyBet for a very tempting 18/1.

Picking out a longer odds contender is tricky, since many of the horses seem pretty equally matched. If we had to choose one, though, we'd probably take Cogry.

He's done some solid running over distance and has not notably disgraced himself thus far. He's under a new jockey here, and would probably prefer the gorund a little softer, but as an outside bet he's worth a little punt.

The best we've found him at is 25/1, which you can pick up over at StanJames.

2015 Aintree Grand National

This weekend's Grand National is an even bigger deal than usual. With the sport's most extraordinary jockey, Tony McCoy, having announced that this will be his final season of racing, it's understandable that his last ever Grand National would attract plenty of attention.

He's said that if he wins the race tomorrow - which would only be the second time in his career if he did - he'll retire on the spot, but unfortunately we don't think that little bit of sporting magic is likely to take place. Shutthefrontdoor is the favourite for the race, backed down to the short odds by punters leading with their hearts, but to our eyes he's just not made for this circuit.

At the rate he's being backed there's a chance he'll go off at shorter odds even than Red Rum did in his best years, but there's no doubt Shutthefrontdoor prefers right handed to left handed tracks, and frankly lacks the experience needed to take the win.

If McCoy crosses the line first on Saturday afternoon it will cement the legend of a man who has already far surpassed everything we thought possible in this sport, but we suspect his grand finale is still a little way off yet.

So who, then, do we favour for a shot at victory? Were it not for the McCoy fever Rocky Creek would likely be the current favourite, and he's definitely a horse to watch for this one.

He ran to fifth last year, fading towards the end, but breathing problems were definitely a big issue that affected what remained a strong season. He's subsequently had a wind operation and took a strong win at Kempton last time out.

This time round he's 9lbs to the good, and if he takes the fences as well as he took them last year he's got to be a strong contender. The best place we've found to back him is at Ladbrokes, who are offering an excellent 10/1.

Our other two picks come further down the odds. Cause Of Causes is a strong young horse who has impressed in a lot of big races. He took the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham, and the four mile trip seemed ideal for him.

He has performed strongly against similarly ranked horses recently, including beating Thunder And Roses, who unseated his rider in their race but subsequently won the Irish National. Furthermore his stable is in form this week, with three winners so far.

We think he's worth a punt, especially over at Coral, who are offering him at an intriguing 18/1.

Finally, we think it's worth taking another look at Al Co. He had a hard time over these fences in December, but with his trainer Peter Bowen in better form now there's every chance we could see him recapture the exhilaration that saw him take an excellent Scottish National last April.

He's been aimed at this race ever since, and Bowen has form with National winners. If we put that unfortunate first run over the course down to the winter ground then tomorrow's appearance should be a dramatic step up.

On current form that would make Al Co a contender, especially on ground he favours. The best place to back him right now is 888Sport, who are offering a very tempting 25/1.

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