Egbert aims to emulate Godsmejudge by winning the Scottish National as a novice

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April 19

Ayr’s Scottish Grand National meeting is very much the main focus of Alan’s attention this week-end, but, besides the trio heading off to Ayr, we’ve also got a couple of runners at both Newbury and Bangor, so it will be disappointing if we are not in the money somewhere along the line.

Spartan Army heads the challenge of our own equine Magnificent Seven when he runs in the two-mile handicap at Newbury today. Alan was tempted to keep Spartan Army back for a £75,000 race at Southwell on Sunday week, not surprising when one considers how well he has done on the all-weather this winter.

However, having worked Spartan Army on Wednesday, Alan gave the horse the thumbs-up for the short journey to our local course, and, explaining his decision, he said:”Newbury gives us more time to get him ready for the Chester Cup. He is a very progressive stayer, and though his winning run came to and end at Newcastle, the handicapper was impressed with his third place behind Prydwen as he put him up another pound. Hopefully, he’ll give another good account of himself here.”

Alan, a  proud Scot, loves nothing better than to celebrate a winner north of the border and is never afraid to pitch a novice in with the big boys in the Scottish National, having triumphed with Godsmejudge in the race in 2013.

He said:”Godsmejudge won off a mark of 139, whereas Egbert, our representative this year, is rated 130 so will need to improve. However, this is the sort of race which will suit Egbert, who has run really well in headgear the last twice.

“He won in a first-time visor at Doncaster, but he then jumped and travelled a lot better when we switched to blinkers at Kempton last time, producing a career-best performance to finish second to Slipway.”

It makes sense to keep the blinkers on for Egbert’s biggest test off a 2lb higher mark, and while he is one one of the outsiders, it is worth remembering that in the last decade there have been winners of this prestigious race at 40-1, 33-1 and two at 25-1.

Apart from Newmarket, we have barely seen a racecourse in Britain that has been able to boast good ground this month, but the more underfoot conditions dry out the better Egbert’s chance, and it is the same for our classy young novice Favour And Fortune in the Scottish Champion Hurdle.

Alan added”I am dying to see Favour And Fortune on a decent surface, but this is his last chance to run this season, so we have no option but to give it a go.”

Favour And Fortune fared best of the home-trained team when finishing sixth in the Supreme Novices Hurdle at last month’s Cheltenham Festival, and he is a horse whom Alan has always held in high regard.

He said:”The Cheltenham form has stacked up well, with the placed horses, Mystical Power and Firefox, again finishing second in another Grade 1 at Aintree, so I’m hoping that Favour And Fortune, who is in fine shape, having given Liverpool a miss, and schooled well on Monday, will be able to do himself justice.”

Masaccio also missed Aintree to wait for this meeting, and Alan hopes he will be competitive in the novice handicap hurdle. He said:”Stepping up to three miles on this sharp track should suit Masaccio, who has improved with every race this winter. He does have form on soft ground, but any improvement will certainly help him.”