MIDLANDS OUTSIDER: Donn moves on to look ahead to the Midlands Grand National at Uttoxeter this afternoon.

So how was it for you? Did you put all those Willie Mullins good things into those doubles and trebles and accumulators? Did you have the Douvan/Annie Power/Vroum Vroum Mag treble? Did Min let you down for a Klondike? At least it was the first leg this time.

Did you put the three short ones on Thursday into a treble? Did you consider how easy this game was when you watched Limini saunter home, after having celebrated Vautour and Thistlecrack? One punter put all seven into an accumulator and won the price of a small semi-detached house in Galway, fair play to him.

Or did you take the good things on, and do you have to have the Midlands National/Silver Plate double to get out for the week?

It’s never good when you have to back the Midlands National winner to get out for the week.

There is a good shape to today’s feature race, however. The market is dominated by horses who are towards the top of the handicap, yet the roll of honour is dominated by horses who were at the bottom.

Only one horse carried more than 10st 12lb to victory in the race in the last 10 years, and that was Synchronised, who was so good he won the Welsh National nine months later and he won the Cheltenham Gold Cup two years later.

Sizing Coal is interesting, representing the Potts/Dreaper/Burke combination that was successful last year with Goonyella. The Presenting gelding ran a cracker to finish third in the Irish National last spring, finishing strongly and just failing to get up for second. He ran a nice race over hurdles at Navan last month, which should have set him up for this, a race that has surely been his target for some time.

He is eight, he has raced just five times over fences, and he has the potential to go beyond today’s handicap rating of 134. The problem is, he has been well found by the market, he has been put in as the 6.0 favourite, and that is no better than fair.

By contrast, you can back Courtown Oscar at 21.0, and that is big. Philip Kirby’s horse is a nice, progressive young staying chaser. He has progressed nicely this season, winning three of his six races, one hurdle race and two staying chases.

An easy winner of a three-mile handicap chase at Wetherby in December on soft ground off a mark of 109, he was pulled up in a novices’ handicap chase at Chepstow in January when racing off a mark of 123, but he bounced back from that to run a good race at Carlisle even though he finished last of three runners behind Subtle Grey and Kilbree Chief.

Dropped back to a mark of 120 for that, he probably put up a career-best in winning a three-mile handicap chase back at Carlisle last time, staying on well to come clear of the useful One For Arthur on the run-in.

He was raised 10lb for that, which looks harsh enough on the face of it, but he is only seven, he has raced just six times over fences in his life, and he has lots of scope for progression. He stays really well, he loves soft ground, and he won a lowly handicap chase on heavy ground at Uttoxeter on his only visit to the track. That is a significant positive: soft ground at Uttoxeter is like soft ground nowhere else, and a proven ability to handle it is a significant asset to take into a Midlands National.

Adam Nicol takes off 3lb, which takes Courtown Oscar’s weight down to 10st 8lb, and that is ideal in a race in which low weights do well. Horses ridden by claiming riders also do well, and Philip Kirby’s horse could out-perform his odds by a fair way.



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