Cheltenham form to the fore as Munir trio top the weights
Peace And Co back after 403-day absence
QTS Scottish Champion Hurdle (Limited Handicap) | 2m | Grade 2 | 4yo+ | ITV
Simon Munir and Isaac Souede's two-tone green colours are carried by three representatives here, all boasting the kind of form that more than justifies their lofty place in the ratings.
Sceau Royal ran a fine race to be sixth in the Champion Hurdle –beaten 13 and a half lengths by Buveur D'Air – while retained jockey Daryl Jacob has remained loyal to L'Ami Serge, who had victory in the County Hurdle snatched away at the death by Arctic Fire.
Perhaps the most interesting of the trio is Peace And Co, who has been off the track since last year's Champion Hurdle and is in receipt of 14lb from the owners' other two runners.
The County Hurdle produced a remarkable blanket finish and as well as runner-up L'Ami Serge, the form is represented by Ozzie The Oscar (third), Winter Escape (fifth) and Mohaayed (seventh), while Baltimore Rock and Bertimont finished further back.
Long break no bar to success
While plenty of winners have come to this race via the Cheltenham Festival, two of the last ten were having their first run of the calendar year, while another had not run since January. Given that the two meetings are often only a week apart, it is not surprising none of the last ten winners had run at Aintree's Grand National festival.
What they say
Nicky Henderson, trainer of L’Ami Serge and Peace And Co
L’Ami Serge ran a great race in the County. Daryl [Jacob] did everything right, getting there two yards from the line, only for the winner to come up the blindside. I suspect we'll be holding him up like we did then. Peace And Co has been off a long time but I've been pleased with him. He had a racecourse gallop at Kempton which a lot of people saw. He was a very good horse and is much more relaxed this year. He's bound to come on but he's ready to run well.
Alan King, trainer of Sceau Royal and Winter Escape
Sceau Royal ran very well at Cheltenham and hopefully by taking 10lb off with Kevin Dowling it will be interesting. The slightly easier track should suit him too. We’ve got no hiding place with his mark but he’s in good order. Winter Escape is very well, especially since Cheltenham was his first run this year. He’d been sick all winter but is back in good form and we’ve been happy with him since the festival.
Seamus Mullins, trainer of Chesterfield
The Scottish Champion was the original plan but we took in Aintree on the way. With the prevailing weather we knew they'd produce suitable going. So now we're at Ayr with 11lb more than we had, but we've a £50,000 race in the bank so I shouldn't complain.
Paul Nicholls, trainer of Tommy Silver and Zubayr
Tommy Silver won at Plumpton and it's a bit of a punt running him again so quick, but there's nothing else left for him. He seems well and the more it dries the better. Zubayr didn't run too badly at Aintree. He looked like he was coming with a chance and then made a bad mistake at the last – he might just have needed it as he hadn't run for a while and we've always thought a really fast-run two miles might suit. He did run well earlier this season at Wincanton and on that he's quite nicely in, so if he comes back to his best he wouldn't be without a chance.
Philip Hobbs, trainer of Ozzie The Oscar
He's been improving all season and ran well last time in the County Hurdle. He should have a strong each-way chance.
Dan Skelton, trainer of Bertimont and Mohaayed
Bertimont was getting it together until Cheltenham. That was a deep race and he didn't run too badly until turning in, and this flat track should suit. On his old form he's nicely handicapped but it's a very competitive race. Mohaayed ran really well at Cheltenham off the lowest weight he could get in off and the track should suit him.
Neil Mulholland, trainer of Baltimore Rock
He’s been fine since Cheltenham. I felt the County Hurdle was a step back in the right direction and he seems in good form. Hopefully he can run a respectable race.
Ian Williams, trainer of London Prize
He ran really well in the Imperial Cup when he didn't have much luck in running. It's a big field – which he should cope with – and he has all the attributes to go well in such a race. I just hope he's good enough.