David Dennis is delighted to have secured the services of Brian Hughes for Innisfree Lad in the Coral Scottish Grand National at Ayr on Saturday.
Hughes, who has an unassailable lead in his quest to win the jockeys’ championship for a second time, has yet to take the valuable four-mile handicap chase.
Dennis rates Innisfree Lad as having a “good each-way chance” and Hughes knows the horse well having ridden him six times before, including one victory.
“I spoke to his agent and said we’d be mad keen for him to ride if he was available,” said Dennis. “Thankfully, he rang at the five-day stage and said Brian was available so he can ride him.”
The Worcestershire trainer was pleased the weights have been raised 10lb, putting Innisfree Lad on a tidy 10st 11lb.
“The weights went up 10lb at the five-day stage so he’s got 10st 11lb now which brings him into the handicap nicely,” he said. “His third in the Eider puts him hopefully bang in there with a good each-way chance.”
Innisfree Lad had earlier shown his liking for extreme distances when third in the Borders National at Kelso in December, where the ground was softer than ideal.
“He’s quite versatile, but he doesn’t want heavy ground. It was a bit annoying in Kelso’s Borders National. It rained heavily the night before, but he still ran an absolute cracker in that,” said Dennis.
“It was just too soft for him in an ideal world. Good to soft, soft would be fine, but if it was heavy I wouldn’t be sure he’d run. They are currently good to soft which is perfect.”
One horse unlikely to be lining up at Ayr is the Paul Nicholls-trained Enrilo, who is more likely to wait for the bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown on April 23.
“I think we’re going to wait for Sandown. We had a look at the race. It’s going to be quite competitive,” the Ditcheat trainer told Sky Sports Racing.
“Though there are three weeks between the two I think if you travel up there and have a hard race, you’re not going to be at your best for Sandown. I had a chat with the owners and I think we’re going to keep him fresh for that.”
Enrilo was first past the post in the Sandown feature last season, only to be demoted to third for causing interference.