Like its Aintree counterpart, the Scottish Grand National is prone to surprising upsets and changing fortunes. Yet, on the face of it, this year’s race did not follow its usual form.
Grey Abbey emerged from the pack to take the lead early on, and stayed there. But Granit d’Estruval, winner of the Irish National just five days earlier, proved a serious challenge until he tipped up at the last.
This left Graham Lee plenty of time to get his mount, who has recently recovered from treatment for a heart problem, first past the post to complete the Aintree-Ayr double.
Grey Abbey is obviously a fan of Ayr, as he notched up his sixth win on the course on Saturday. He was carrying 11st 10lb, the biggest weight since Red Rum became the first horse to complete the elusive Ayr – Aintree double in 1974, carrying 11st 13lb. Graham Lee is the first jockey since Red Rum’s jockey, Brian Fletcher, to achieve the double.
The jockey was as ecstatic as he had been following his Aintree win, in which Irish hope Hedgehunter, ran a blinder of a race until the last, when he suffered a fate similar to that of Granit d’Estruval in Saturday’s race.
Lee said: “I can’t believe it either. I’m not going so far as to say I would have won if the other had not fallen, but Grey Abbey kept finding more for me and I knew he would battle.”
Kerry Lads produced an almost flawless performance to take second at a distance, with Martin Pipe-trained Maximize a close third. The heavily backed Tipsy Mouse never really proved a threat, but hung on for a well-deserved fourth place. Connections have high hopes of the eight-year-old in the future.
Neither of the 7-1 joint favourites impressed. Simply Supreme was a victim of fate when he crashed out at the first, while Native Emperor never really made a showing before he was pulled up by Liam Cooper.
Only nine horses finished out of 28 starters in a race run in driving rain.