Rival d'Estruval is Ed Chamberlin's pick for the Scottish Grand National
Ed Chamberlin previews the footballing weekend and shares his tip for the Scottish Grand National.
Last Updated: 18/04/13 10:53am
Sky Bet's odds on a top four finish: Chelsea 1/6, Arsenal 4/9, Tottenham 5/4, Everton 12/1, Liverpool 100/1.
Arsenal and Everton must win on Saturday to put the pressure on their rivals. Then it's over to Tottenham, Liverpool and Chelsea on Super Sunday.
We start on Sky Sports 1 HD at 1pm and first up Tottenham (2/1 to win with Sky Bet) are up against Manchester City (13/10).
I will be at Anfield for Liverpool (23/20) against Chelsea (9/4). The first time Rafa Benítez has taken a side to Liverpool since the club sacked him in 2010.
Then it will be straight in to the car and down to London to prepare for Monday Night Football: Manchester United (2/9) v Aston Villa (10/1).
A brilliant weekend of live football!
Chasers come to the fore again this weekend in the Scottish Grand National at Ayr. If ever there was a horse made for this contest it is Rival d'Estruval. I backed him to win the four miler at Cheltenham and think he would have won the race had he stood up. He cruised in to contention that day and remains a highly progressive stayer. Rival d'Estruval's jumping is normally sound and this trip holds no fears, plus he is owned by a man who loves this race. Raymond Green won it last year with Merigo and has a major contender for a repeat.
I was delighted to see the one horse I recommended to follow from the Cheltenham Festival, Claret Cloak, won at Stratford last weekend. Claret Cloak remains a horse to follow when he gets the decent ground he needs and will make in to a lovely chaser.
This is such a strange time of year as we lurch from top class racing on the flat back to decent jumping action. While I think the start to the flat season should be delayed and launched at last weekend's meeting at Doncaster, I actually really enjoyed Wednesday's racing from both Headquarters, Newmarket and Cheltenham, which nicely sums up the transition at this time of year from national hunt to the level.
The Craven Stakes has currently lost its magic as a trial but we are in the middle of Classic clues time, with the Greenham and Fred Darling at Newbury on Saturday the next port of call.
I have three horses that should be worth following through the summer months:
Having backed her to win the Oaks this winer, this is the one horse that stands out for me in the Classics and is set to kick-start a resurgence for Sir Michael Stoute this season. When Sir Michael has a juvenile winner at Goodwood, they tend to be useful and Liber Nauticus won the same maiden at the Sussex track as Derby winners North Light and Workforce. She was very green that day but when the penny eventually dropped and Kieren Fallon got hold of her, she ran out a most eye-catching winner. She is bred to excel over middle-distances. Liber Nauticus is by Azamour, one of my all time favourite horses, out of an unraced mare from the family of Conduit and Spectrum.
I keep hearing rave reviews about how she has wintered and been working at home, plus there has been a stream of money for her to win the Oaks. I would imagine Sir Michael will send her for the Musidora at York and then on to Epsom.
2. Havana Beat
Andrew Balding had an impressive 93 winners last season and won nearly £1.5m in prize money. He's also a master at scooping decent prizes abroad and has already landed a touch with Side Glance's impressive fourth in the Dubai World Cup.
At home, Balding looks set for another productive year and has particularly high hopes for Havana Beat, who runs in the valuable Tatersalls race at Newmarket this afternoon (2.55). This was an immature two-year-old who did well to win his maiden at Sandown as he was always going to be a much better three-year-old. The trainer is thrilled with the progress the horse has made over the winter and now describes Havana Beat as a "great physical specimen".
Andrew also trains the Sky Sports News owner On Demand, who will hopefully develop into a useful two-year-old and give the channel's viewers a lot of fun.
Mayson may have been retired but Richard Fahey has a new stable star in exactly the same colours. Garswood was a brilliant winner of the European Free Handicap and now has an exciting season ahead. I loved him when I went to Fahey's yard last year and it was clear the team thought the world of him. I assumed then that he would be a sprinter but Wednesday's win over seven furlongs, where he travelled like a dream and won with his ears pricked, opens up all sorts of options. Skybet quote Garswood at 20/1 to win the 2,000 Guineas.
Next week all eyes will be Punchestown for five days of superb racing. All the stars of Irish jump racing seem to have entries and there are some potent British raiders lined up as well for what's shaping up to be an epic meeting. Let's hope conditions are suitable and the biggest star of the lot, Sprinter Sacre, makes headlines again in the Champion Chase.
I'll be backing Rule The World in whatever race Mouse Morris sends him to, as I'm convinced it was a vintage Neptune at Cheltenham. Rule The World can go right to the top as a novice chaser next season.
Near the top of that tree right now is Boston Bob, who can make amends for his unfortunate fall in the RSA in the Champion Novice Chase. He could well emerge as Bobs Worth most potent rival at Cheltenham next March.