Simon Holt best bets for Ayr and Newbury on Saturday –

TAKINGRISKS looks a fascinating contender stepping up to a marathon trip for the first time in Saturday’s Coral Scottish Grand National at Ayr.

The Nicky Richards-trained gelding has put together some good efforts this season and, with the exception of a poor jumping round at Newcastle, has tended to finish off strongly at distances of around three miles.

This was never more eyecatching than when he rushed home from the final fence at Haydock (good) in November, failing by half a length to catch last year’s third Vintage Clouds, and the fitting of cheekpieces for the first time seemed to sharpen him up at Carlisle last month when he accounted for Jepeck on heavy ground.

A course winner over hurdles first time out, Takingrisks seems ground versatile, has crept into the handicap off 10st1lb and his rider Sean Quinlan is enjoying by far the best season of his career.

Vintage Clouds, a faller at the first in last week’s Grand National, looks sure to run his race again with a clear round.

Normally quite sure-footed, he had previously chased home Beware The Bear (up 14lb for his last two wins) at Cheltenham but, as when third to Joe Farrell here 12 months ago, often looks a little one-paced in the closing stages.

Others with chances must include Impulsive Star and the progressive Crosspark, first and third in the Classic Chase at Warwick in January, last year’s meeting winner Crosshue Boy, who appears to have been laid out for the race with outings over hurdles, and the hat-trick seeking Cloth Cap while last year’s fourth Doing Fine could well plug on again in the final furlongs.

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In an audacious bid to nail both big handicaps on Saturday, RIPP ORF and GULF OF POETS should both go well in the hugely competitive MansionBet Spring Cup at Newbury.

Ripp Orf was my selection for the Lincoln but this wonderfully consistent campaigner stayed on too late into fifth and, like the rest of the field, could never land a blow at the clearly well-handicapped Auxerre.

With a bit more cut in the ground likely this time, his renowned finishing effort could prove much more effective.

The ground at Doncaster was probably a bit lively for Gulf Of Poets who ran a similar sort of race in the Spring Mile that day.

Mick Easterby’s charge, who tends to be best at this time of year, has done most of his best work on an easier surface and, narrowly beaten off a mark of 98 at Wetherby last May (following two earlier victories), he looks handily treated now on 91 with the promising David Egan an interesting booking.

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