Gordon Elliott hoping Fagan can pick up National hat-trick at Ayr
Irish trainer looking to add Scottish title to Irish and English wins this year
Gordon Elliott will look to add the Scottish Grand National to the Irish and English titles he has won this spring. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
Gordon Elliott relies upon Fagan in a bid to complete a remarkable Grand National hat-trick this spring in Saturday’s Scottish National at Ayr.
The title-chasing trainer landed a first Irish Grand National with General Principle on Easter Monday at Fairyhouse before Tiger Roll provided him with a second success in the National at Aintree last Saturday.
Fagan appears to have strong claims, having been off the track since chasing home leading staying novice Black Corton at Cheltenham in October.
Elliott’s eight-year-old was vying for the favourite’s tag along with Neil Mullholland’s Doing Fine and the Paul Nicholls-trained Vicente.
Elliott said: “He’s in good form and the better the ground the better chance he’ll have.”
Davy Russell, aboard Tiger Roll on Merseyside, takes the ride as he looks to complete a National double.
The veteran rider gave up his rides at Fairyhouse on Thursday evening due to feeling unwell, but said: “I think I’ve just had a touch of flu or a chest infection or something. I should be fine for Saturday.
“He [Fagan] is a little bit inexperienced but hopefully he’ll run a nice race.”
Fellow Irish jockey Robbie Power has his first ride in the Scottish National aboard Colin Tizzard’s Sizing Tennessee, who was last seen finishing third in the National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
He said: “He ran a cracking race in the four-miler on ground that was softer than ideal for him.
“Maybe he didn’t quite get up the hill at Cheltenham, but Ayr is a flatter track and hopefully on better ground he’s got a live chance.
“I’ve never ridden in the Scottish National, but I’d never ridden in the Gold Cup [which he won aboard Sizing John] until last year either, so hopefully it’s a lucky omen.”
Nicholls believes Vicente has a “massive chance” of becoming the first horse in over a century to win three consecutive renewals of the Scottish Grand National.
Couvrefeu II is the only horse to have achieved the feat between 1911-13. Southern Hero struck gold on three occasions in the 1930s and Queen’s Taste did the same in the 1950s, but neither horse managed to win three on the bounce.
Vicente has failed to complete on his two most recent outings and was pulled up when last seen at the Cheltenham Festival.
However, connections sidestepped the National at Aintree in favour of a potentially historic hat-trick bid at Ayr.
And with the ground turning in his favour, Nicholls is in confident mood.
“He’s fine. He went up to Aintree last week as we were thinking of running him but the ground went against him,” said the Ditcheat handler.
“It’s amazing what a difference a week makes with the sun shining now, and the more it dries, the better it will be for him.
“We shouldn’t have run him at Cheltenham, to be honest. He never jumps well on soft ground in a big field, but he’s a different animal on good ground – we’ve seen that at Ayr the last two years.
“He’s a bit higher in the weights this year and because of the ground he’s had a pretty ordinary season, though he did run well at Cheltenham first time up and if he’d jumped well that day he’d probably have won.
“On a track he likes, on ground he loves, he’s got to have a massive chance.
“You target these races at the end of the season – the big ones are special.”