Horse Racing – High-class hurdler can seal Scottish Grand National

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RACING expert Graeme Johnston (@GraemeJ_83) picks out his best bet from Saturday’s action at Ayr, including the Scottish Grand National.

2:20 Ayr | ITV

A three-mile novice handicap chase and it looks a really tight race.

With 17 lining up, there are very few you would regard as just making up the numbers, although there is one in here I suspect may be a little better than a handicapper…

Barney Dwan (6/1 BetBright) ran a huge race when fourth at the Cheltenham Festival and that performance looks even better when you take in to account he hated the ground.

The ground is a lot better this weekend and we are likely to see an improved performance here. Though it is a hugely competitive field, I make him a solid each-way selection.

2:55 Ayr | Scottish Champion Hurdle | ITV

The Scottish Champion Hurdle isn’t quite up to the Cheltenham equivalent but it’s a very competitive two-mile handicap nevertheless.

There is a field of 16 but I’m only interested in one. Chesterfield (13/2 Ladbrokes) won this race last year and has slipped in the handicap since then. He didn’t show up in his first few starts this season but he seems to run his best races at this time of year.

He was a good fourth in the County Hurdle at Cheltenham and in my opinion this is easier. I have backed him each-way and expect a huge run here.

4:05 Ayr | Scottish Grand National | ITV

The Scottish Grand National may not have the same imposing fences that Aintree has but it’s still a real test and despite the good ground this will take some getting.

Plenty of experienced staying chasers line-up but I’m taking my chances on a novice. When I say novice, he has plenty of experience, but Ballyoptic (12/1 BetVictor) is just starting to live up to his potential over fences.

A high-class hurdler, he’s two from five over fences and last time he was fourth in the RSA Chase, which looked a good renewal. He stayed on towards the end and he has always struck me as a stayer so this extreme trip could be the making of him and I’ve backed him each-way.

Best Bets

2:20 Ayr – Barney Dwan (6/1 each-way BetBright)

2:55 Ayr – Chesterfield (13/2 each-way Ladbrokes)

4:05 Ayr – Ballyoptic (12/1 each-way BetVictor)

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I grew up watching Hearts games with my dad and playing football at every opportunity so betting on it was the logical next step! Football coupons became a Saturday ritual and it introduced me into the world of horse racing. I started watching it on a regular basis, and after Galileo's Derby win in 2001 I was hooked. I follow both flat and national hunt racing attending the northern meetings when possible.

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