Home hopes high in Scottish Grand National at Ayr

Nine Scottish trained runners are aiming to bring home their own Grand National trophy at Ayr on Sunday (3.35).

The showpiece event hasn't be claimed by a Scottish-based horse since 2012 when Andrew Parker's Merigo won his second Scottish Grand National in three years.

Harriet Graham's Aye Right is ante-post favourite for the Coral-sponsored showpiece, but must concede weight to all his 22 opponents following his string of placed efforts in hugely-competitive races.

Graham trains a small stable of eight alongside her role as clerk of the course at Musselburgh and Perth, and has overseen the Ayr showpiece herself too when covering for maternity leave.

The Jedburgh handler describes Aye Right as "the star of the yard", although victory has eluded the eight-year-old this season despite his series of gallant performances.

Aye Right was third behind Cyrname in the Charlie Hall at Wetherby, second in Newbury's Ladbrokes Trophy and again runner-up in Doncaster's Listed Sky Bet Chase.

Also third in the Ultima Chase at Cheltenham last month, he is one of nine Scottish-trained runners in this weekend's big handicap.

Aye Right's rivals travelling north include Sue Smith's surprise Ultima winner Vintage Clouds and Brian Ellison's Eider Chase hero Sam's Adventure - as well as Paul Nicholls' Soldier Of Love, Dan Skelton's Oldgrangewood and Notachance from Alan King's yard.

"I'm really, really proud and privileged to be training him," Graham said, on a call hosted by Great British Racing.

"Let's remember his owners, Geoff and Elspeth Adam, who are Scottish as well - and Geoff has had horses in training in Scotland for many, many years.

"He's right behind keeping his horses in Scotland to be trained - he's been incredibly loyal to me and to the jockey, Callum Bewley, who's also Scottish.

"I'm probably the least Scottish of the lot of them, having been brought up in Devon, but I have lived in Scotland now longer than I've lived in England."

The community surrounding Graham's yard is equally engaged in the success of Aye Right, having followed his near-misses - and he will be well supported as he looks to return the title to Scottish soil.

"It's a real racing area here, and everyone's into their horses," she said.

"They're all asking after him and saying he deserves to win one.

"When you look at his form he definitely does - there's a really nice, good feeling behind him."

Although Graham is naturally hoping Aye Right can cross the line in front, she would be delighted with any Scottish winner - and, with a smile, even served up a cheeky reference to home domination akin to last month's Irish success at Cheltenham, which caused such consternation for many in Britain.

"It would be lovely if it was Aye Right - but it would be lovely if it was another one of the Scottish trainers as well," she said.

"Maybe we could have the one-two-three-four - with Aye Right number one!"

Prominent among others capable of delivering a home victory is Lucinda Russell, who runs both Mighty Thunder and Big River.

Kerry Lads was second for the Kinross trainer back in 2004, and she would love to go one better.

"When I first started training back in 1995 it was always the aim," she said.

"It's a race over four miles, and I tend to train stayers - even back in those days - so it was always the aim for the horses.

"Kerry Lads got us very close. He was second and placed a couple of times, so it's always been an aim.

"I think it's a race that would just complete my CV. It'd be rather nice."