Merigo gallops into history books with second win in Ayr

Merigo became only the eighth horse to land the Scottish National more than once with a thrilling victory on Saturday.

And in adding to his 2010 triumph and second 12 months ago, Andrew Parker’s Ecclefechan hero has now never finished out of the first three in eight starts at Ayr as he galloped into the history books under veteran pilot Timmy Murphy.

“He’s a superstar and Andrew knows him better than anybody – he just seems to come to hand at this time of year.” said Murphy, who is the son-in-law of winning East Lothian owners Ray and Anita Green.

“He seems to have lost a bit of the pace he used to have and he was a little too keen when he won for the first time two years ago – today the choke was out for a long way. He never stops trying and his jumping was keeping him in it. He’s a great horse to own and ride.”

The 4m marathon was run at a searching pace from the start and up the home straight it developed into a match between Merigo, gambled from 9/1 into 15/2, and Auroras Encore, ridden by Borders pilot Ryan Mania.

Mania kicked his mount a few lengths clear three out but Merigo landed running over the final fence and Murphy mounted a sustained challenge on the far side to get up by a head. King Fontaine was 15 lengths back in third and Ballyfitz nine lengths away in fourth.

Green said: “I was in dreamland winning one Scottish National and words can’t describe how it feels to do it again.”

Parker added: “He loves Ayr and he loves the sun on his back. He’s just a different horse round here than
anywhere else and he’s done well to win over £340,000 throughout his career. I thought we’d be struggling to catch the leader but he’s got the heart of a lion even though he looks like a plough horse and the ugliest thing you’ve ever seen!”

Harry The Viking continued the dismal record of favourites as Ruby Walsh pulled up the 6/1 jolly with a circuit to go. Importantly, there were no fallers in the race and 10 of the 24 that faced the starter finished while the remainder were pulled up.

Alan King ended an Ayr hoodoo that stretched back almost five years in style when Raya Star took the Scottish Champion Hurdle.

He said: “We come up for this meeting every year and it means a lot to have a winner. I spent a year across the road at Cree Lodge a long time ago.”

Walsh brought the crowd to it’s feet when steering Pacha Du Polder home for Paul Nicholls in the Grade 2 Future Champions Novices’ Chase.

And there was drama in the opener when the recall flag woman appeared to signal a false start but stewards rightly allowed Grandioso, also trained by Nicholls, to keep the race.

The champion trainer completed a treble with Doeslessthanme.