Turf Talk: Time right for Midnight Prayer to end his National nightmare

Midnight Prayer, ridden by Tom Bellamy, at the last in the Betfred Classic Chase in January.
Midnight Prayer, ridden by Tom Bellamy, at the last in the Betfred Classic Chase in January.
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Midnight Prayer has this season had a National nightmare, but all that can change at Ayr.

Trainer Alan King had hoped to run the 11-year-old stayer in the Welsh Grand National, but a bout of coughing put paid to that dream.

The Barbury Castle handler then had grand plans of saddling Midnight Prayer in the big one at Aintree, only to miss the cut.

But with fate finally on his side, he has to be shortlisted for the Coral Scottish Grand National.

Things have not gone so smoothly since winning the four-miler at the 2014 Cheltenham Festival – he has only raced on five more occasions – but his second place in a heavy-ground Classic Chase at Warwick in January was reassuring.

His subsequent success at Exeter was less convincing, though, when left in front by the fall of Golden Chieftain, while he was also well beaten in the Kim Muir at Cheltenham.

Be that as it may, he was hardly disgraced in finishing seventh behind Cause Of Causes – particularly as three miles and two furlongs on good ground was always going to be too sharp for a horse that is not especially quick.

With this very much in mind, a return to a marathon distance and easier ground should boost his chances immeasurably. Despite his advancing years, Midnight Prayer has only been seen on 10 occasions over fences and competes at Ayr off a lovely weight.

King, a loyal Scot with a big heart, won the race in 2013 with Godsmejudge and there is every chance this has yet again been a long-held target – even if his inmate has had to zig-zag a little to get to Ayr.

Clues abound at Newbury, where Crazy Horse might just be the real deal in the JLT Greenham Stakes.

The Sleeping Indian colt is the least experienced horse in the field and has admittedly achieved not quite as much as others, but he hails from a yard already on top of their form and there is a strong probability he has developed into a cracking three-year-old.