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Lucinda launches triple assault on Coral Scottish Grand National

Leading Scottish trainer Lucinda Russell is hoping to fulfil a lifelong ambition by saddling the winner of the Coral Scottish Grand National at Ayr today (3.50), and has a trio of strong contenders in the extended 4m showpiece.

They are headed by Green Flag, who has been favourite to land the spoils since an eye-catching fourth at the Cheltenham Festival last month.

The seven-year-old, who won his first three starts over the larger obstacles in good style, put up a career-best performance when a superb fourth of 23 to Holywell in the 3m 1f Baylis & Harding Affordable Luxury Handicap Chase.

Although beaten 11 1/3 lengths, he ran far better than his finishing position suggests after losing his position when getting hampered by a faller at the eighth fence.

He then got outpaced three from home when the tempo quickened, before picking up in tremendous style and finishing with a real rattle to be gaining all the way to the line.

The winner has since come out and bolted up by 10 lengths in the Grade 1 Mildmay Novices’ Chase at Aintree off a rating of 157, while the runner-up Ma Filleule ran out the easy winner of the Topham Chase at the same meeting off a mark of 150.

Green Flag was receiving just 2lb from those two rivals at Cheltenham and is now set to run off a 1lb lower mark at Ayr.

That makes him look potentially very well-treated and it’s no surprise that stable jockey Peter Buchanan has decide to partner him given how strong his form looks.

Kinross-based Russell also saddles Lie Forrit, who is making his first start over fences this season following two victories over hurdles, and is a 16/1 chance with Coral.

The 10-year-old looked better than ever when defying top weight of 11st 12lb to win at Kelso last month, and is potentially well handicapped now returned to the larger obstacles.
His current chase mark of 135 is 10lb lower than his hurdles’ rating and that gives him a big chance at the weights.

He stays well, acts on any going and will be ridden by the highly promising Craig Nichol who takes another 5lb off his back and is terrific value for his claim.

The Russell team is completed by Nuts N Bolts, who although the outsider of the trio with Coral at 20/1 is not without a chance on the pick of his form.

The gelding developed into a useful chaser last season, winning a graduation chase at this track by seven lengths before following up in game style on his handicap debut here when beating Charingworth by 3/4 of a length off a mark of 128.

He then ran a cracker to finish sixth of 24 to Golden Chieftan in the JLT Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival and was sent off the 10/1 jt second favourite for this contest 12 months ago on the back of that effort only to be pulled up before the 17th.

However, that run may have been one to may at the end of a hard season and he goes into this year’s renewal a much fresher horse having had just three runs.

The eight-year-old won in good style by six lengths in the first of those at Haydock off a mark of 131 and is now set to run off just 5lb higher.

He stays all day and will be ridden for the first time by Lucy Alexander, who is bidding to become the first female jockey to win the race.