The Scottish Grand National Festival is staged annually at Ayr Racecourse, on the south west coast of Scotland, on a Friday and Saturday in April. Traditionally, the meeting takes place just seven days after the Grand National Festival at Aintree but, while it is predictably overshadowed by its more illustrious, south-of-the border counterpart, it is, by some way, the most valuable National Hunt Festival in Scotland.
Aside from the feature race, the Scottish Grand National, the 15 races staged over the two days include the QTS Scottish Champion Hurdle, the Jordan Electrics Ltd Future Champion Novices’ Chase, the Hillhouse Quarry Handicap Chase, the Scotty Brand Handicap Chase and Dawn Homes Novices’ Handicap Chase and are collectively worth £714,000 in prize money. The Dawn Homes Novices’ Handicap Chase, run over 3 miles and worth £100,000 in prize money, was a new addition to the programme in 2018, joining the Scottish Grand National and the QTS Scottish Champion Hurdle as the third race offering six-figure prize money on the second day.
The feature race, the Scottish Grand National, was run for the first time at Ayr, over its current distance of 3 miles 7 furlongs and 176 yards, in 1965, following the closure of Bogside Racecourse. Open to horses aged five years and upwards, the Scottish Grand National has a safety limit of 30 and is often almost as competitive as the Grand National proper, befitting the most valuable National Hunt race in Scotland, with £215,000 in prize money.
Indeed, since the Scottish Grand National moved to its current venue, several horses have tasted victory at Ayr and Aintree. Little Polveir won the Scottish Grand National for John Edwards in 1987 and the Grand National proper for Toby Balding in 1989. Earth Summit, trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies, won the Scottish Grand National in 1994, the Welsh Grand National in 1997 and the Grand National proper in 1998. However, fresh from his second win in the Grand National, under top weight of 12 stone, in 1974, Red Rum carried 11st 13lb to victory in the Scottish Grand National just three weeks later and remains the only horse to win both races in the same season.