60 The List 1‘) April -- 2
The Scottish Grand National, cricket season preview and Scottish'international disasters.
Thrill of the chase
Ayr Racecourse serves up the highlight of the Scottish National Hunt season on 20 April in the shape of the Scottish Grand National. run over a testing four and a halfmiles. Tom Lappin looks at the likely entries. and ponders where to wager his halfcrown.
\’ying closely with (‘olin ()‘Neill‘s spectacular Motherwell goal in that (‘up semi-final for
Horsing around the trainers tend to have their horses ready for this particular meeting especially because of the value
sporting highlight of the spring has to be Seagram‘sl OfIhC NCO-S‘-
sprint past the ‘handicap certainty" Garrison Savannah to w in this year’s Grand National at Aintree. Admittedly my sporting admiration was improved by the fact that I’d managed to get 14-1 on the early prices board. but it was a majestic achievement all the same. regardless of the healthy profit margin.
Seagram looks likely to be confining himselro a briefstroll round the parade ring at Ayr's Scottish Grand National meeting on 20 April. and who can blame him. he's worked hard enough this season. His absence does not detract from what will be the culmination of the National Hunt season in Scotland. and will attract strong entries from the top trainers south of the border. In the past. they have tended to regard Scottish meetings as poor quality. but the Scottish National an exception. as (‘lerk ()f'l‘he (‘ourse Sam Morshead explains. "I’rainers definitely include this as part oftheir calendar.‘ he says. ‘We do our best to attract the best horses all the time. obviously. but historically
Steeplechasing has long been the poor relation ofllat racing. but increasingly racegoers have become disenchanted with the vagaries of the Flat where highly-bred animals may only run one or two seasons before being retired to stud at the whim oftheir millionaire Arab owners. National Hunt is still partially the domain of the small-timer. and horses that return to the track season after season become old friends. The classic example is steeplechaser Desert ()rchid. a household name. while few could name any of the leading fancies for next months 2000 Guineas on the Flat.
()ld friends still in the lists for the Scottish National at the second acceptance stage and who might be lining up at the start at Ayr include Martin Pipe's Bonanza Boy who started favourite for the Aintree National and finished just outside the placings. Beingon the short side. he might find Ayr's fences a little less intimidating. and Pipe is not averse to sending his horses a long distance in
search of prize money. ()ther Aintree veterans who could conceivably come into the picture are Mr Frisk, Yahoo and Team Challenge. All three are sound jumpers (Mr Frisk won at Aintree in 1990 and will welcome soft ground) and had relatively trouble-free races at Liverpool. John Edwards‘ Yahoo is capable ofmuch better than his recent results might suggest. and a trip to Ayr could prove profitable.
Apart from the big southern stables. the horses of (‘umbria-based Gordon Richards always pose a danger in the Scottish National. Last year he won it with FourTrix and the same horse could return to defend his crown. Richards‘ other entries. The Langholm Dyer and Tartan Trademark (both owned by the Edinburgh Woollen Mill) should not be lightly disregarded either. Probably the most interesting potential runner. however. is Omerta. winner ofthe Irish Grand National at Easter. and another example of trainer Martin Pipe's ability to restore seemingly jaded horses to full fitness. His participation would add greatly to the prestige ofa race that already looks highly competitive.
Sam Morshead offers no pointers (‘I‘m a terrible tipster‘) but he is keen to avoid one feature of Grand National day at Aintree. where the start of the race was delayed by Animal Rights protesters complaining about the high level of injuries sustained by horses in the race. ‘I certainly hope nothing ofthat sort occurs.‘ he says. ‘but that is a facet of Liverpool that doesn‘t really apply here. Ayr‘s fences are not the same extreme challenge as Aintree's. The Scottish National is run over our normal National Hunt fences that we use throughout the season so we don‘t have the same number ofinjuries.‘
Let‘s hope not. although by some unfortunate oversight the name ofThe Thinker (who died two weeks ago) appeared on the list of acceptors for the race. Probably best to ignore him on your ante-post bets (although I might be tempted if they're offering better than 50-] ).
The Scottish (1mm! .V'utirmul is u! Ayr Racecourse Saturday 20 April (114. 1 ()pm.
Forlar in mid-April might not seem the ideal time or place to launch the cricket season. The summer game is probably far more at home on a balmy August atternoon with gin and tonics clinking in the clubhouse and the steady old number four batsman holding out for a draw at close of play. Nevertheless, the wicket is being lovingly tended and the sight screens rolled into place at Lochside Park, Forfar, lorthe first crucial match of the season against Lancashire in the Benson 8. Hedges Cup.
Cricket north of the border is beginning to be taken a little more
May 19‘) l
Best foot forward for Scottish cricket
seriously, helped no doubt by the decision of legendary West Indies batsman Gordon Greenidge to play a
‘ season with Greenock last year, and
' the securing of sponsorship despite the current recession. At grass roots level, the possibility of Scotland‘s
cricket clubs have been in existence Iongerthan soccer clubs, and it is estimated that as many people play cricket as rugby. Despite this there is still a resistance in media circles to what is seen as the ‘English game’. This, despite the fact that Freuchie won the Whitbread National Village Trophy in 1985, and the Scotland side pulled off a creditable away win against Northamptonshire in the Benson & Hedges Cup last season, a remarkable achievement against a side which included Test stars Larkins, Capel and
Scotland recently submitted an application for Associate Membership of the International Cricket Council,
,3 proposed by England and seconded by ‘ Australia. it ratified it would open up
participation in future world cup tournaments and provide Scotland’s cricketers with vital opportunities for
Experience at top level is as important as interest and development at lower levels, and a useful contribution to this will be the Pakistan Tour in June. The Pakistan side will be 5 mostly former Test stars, although a .7 couple of the current Test team will be included. The tour includes three one-day challenge matches and overall it is estimated that around 50 Scottish cricketers will gain crucial experience at the top level. In the meantime, Lancashire can't afford to be too complacent about theirvisitto Forlar, whateverthe weather. (Tom Lappin) Scotland play Lancashire at Lochside park, Forfar on 23 April.
international competition. é