Belfast Telegraph

Nicholls says Vicente in with great chance of bouncing back for Ayr treble


By Martin Kelly

Paul Nicholls believes Vicente has a "massive chance" of becoming the first horse in over a century to win three consecutive renewals of the Coral Scottish Grand National at Ayr on Saturday.

Couvrefeu II is the only horse to have achieved the feat between 1911-13. Southern Hero struck gold on three occasions in the 1930s and Queen's Taste did the same in the 1950s, but neither horse managed to win three on the bounce.

Vicente has failed to complete on his two most recent outings and was pulled up when last seen at the Cheltenham Festival.

However, connections sidestepped the Grand National at Aintree in favour of a potentially historic hat-trick bid at Ayr.

And with the ground turning in his favour, Nicholls is in confident mood.

"He's fine. He went up to Aintree last week as we were thinking of running him but the ground went against him," said the Ditcheat handler.

"It's amazing what a difference a week makes with the sun shining now, and the more it dries, the better it will be for him.

"On a track he likes, on ground he loves, he's got to have a massive chance. You target these races at the end of the season."

Nicholls has a second string to his bow in Silsol. "We also run Silsol, who is not without a chance. He ran well in the Welsh National and Midlands National," he told At The Races.

Vicente is one half of a formidable twin assault for leading owner Trevor Hemmings along with the Sue Smith-trained Vintage Clouds.

The latter was fourth reserve for the Grand National and connections were left frustrated after he failed to make the cut.

Mick Meagher, the owner's racing manager, said: "Every hour it stays dry is a bonus for Vicente. He's only 4lb higher than last year and he was competitive first time out this season off a mark like this.

"With a bit of luck he might be involved again. Vintage Clouds goes on any ground, but it was frustrating to miss last week with him.

"Sue says he's in great form and he's run well all season. He was fourth in the Welsh National, so should stay, and his jumping has improved."

Other leading hopes in a 30-strong field include Neil Mulholland's Doing Fine, the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Ballyoptic and Nicky Henderson's pair of Gold Present and Beware The Bear.

Belfast Telegraph

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