Aye Right may bid for the most deserved of victories in next month’s Coral Scottish Grand National.
Harriet Graham’s stable star once again did her Jedburgh yard proud on another southern raid as a highly honourable third in last week’s Ultima Handicap Chase on day one of the Cheltenham Festival.
That was the fourth time in succession the remarkably consistent eight-year-old has been placed at graded or Listed level this season.
Graham returned from the 600-mile, 10-hour round trip full of pride for his efforts – but admits to a tinge of frustration too that, for all his honesty and determination, Aye Right has registered just one victory over fences, and none in his last six attempts spread over 14 months.
Aye Right has recovered from his latest exertions, after just a short break so far – and Graham is considering a shorter trip to the races next time, but a longer one on arrival in the marathon Ayr showpiece.
“We’re not guaranteed that we’ll run him again this season because once you get to here, there is very little (to choose from for him),” she said.
“There’s the Scottish National, and I think there’s two races at Sandown at the end of the month – and that’s about it.
“It will be ground dependent, and other entries. But we’re certainly going to be aiming him for that (Scottish National), and then take it how it comes.”
A continued dry spell will provide further encouragement, at a meeting which played to Aye Right’s strengths when it last took place two years ago – with a good handicap victory over hurdles.
Graham added: “He does like good ground, so we’d be very tempted to run him on that and see if he gets the trip.
“He always finishes his races well.
“He’s one-paced, we know that, but he’s not stopping – he’s just not going any faster at the end, basically.”
As for the prospects of an overdue eighth career victory for Aye Right, she said: “It would be lovely to win one – that’s why we’re here.
“We want to win them.
“It’s a little bit frustrating, but I guess when you’re rated 150 plus, there’s no easy races.
“You basically don’t have any choices – you’ve just got to go where you can.”
There would be no more rewarding success for the small Borders yard than in one of Scotland’s most famous races.
“That would be really sweet, very sweet,” said Graham.
“But it’s another race that will be ultra-competitive and you’ve got to have some luck as well.”
Aye Right is at his best dictating the pace, and it was to his credit that he was beaten under eight lengths by a resurgent Vintage Clouds despite failing to find any jumping fluency up the inside rail in such a competitive race at Cheltenham.
“It probably didn’t pan out quite the way we thought it might,” added Graham.
“He didn’t get an easy lead and he was right among the field all the time – he’s probably better when he can use his front-running style.
“But he was very, very brave and we were very proud of him.
“He’s very consistent. He can make a mistake, but he doesn’t really know that he has – so he just carries on, which is a really good thing.”
Aye Right justified his rating of 154 once more – under Richard Johnson, with his regular jockey Callum Bewley suspended – and the move up to a new trip is therefore a remaining option to try to eke out further improvement.
He has had six starts so far this season, since October, but Graham reports he appears well after his latest long-range assignment.
“He’s been fine,” she said.
“He was a bit tired when we got back – it’s a long trip back – so he’s had a few days off.
“The handicapper hasn’t done anything to him, so he’s on the same mark.
“It’d be nice to have been dropped a wee bit, but he probably was the mark that the handicapper used (to rate the race).”