Racing: The Toiseach avoids slog of Scottish National

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JAMES FANSHAWE yesterday ruled The Toiseach out of next Saturday's Scottish Grand National at Ayr. His seven-year-old may instead attempt to complete a four-timer in the Whitbread Gold Cup at Sandown seven days later.

Fanshawe said: "It's a long way at Ayr - four and a bit miles - and that is a fair old slog for a young horse. He might go for the Whitbread as he doesn't mind the ground on top. Tony Dobbin will ride him again."

The Toiseach has won five of his six starts in his first season over fences, including Ascot's Grade Two Reynoldstown Novices' Chase and the Grimthorpe Handicap Chase at Doncaster.

Ruled out of the Whitbread is Sparky Gayle, who has not sparkled since his second in the Mildmay of Flete Chase at Cheltenham. Colin Parker, his trainer, said: "The way my horses are at the moment we couldn't go to Sandown with any confidence."

Sparky Gayle has not won a race this season, at the start of which he was touted as a Gold Cup contender. But Parker stressed: "We're not disappointed with him. We have had problems with the horses all winter."

Oliver Sherwood admitted yesterday he is more hopeful than confident about Large Action's return from a 10-week lay-off at Cheltenham on Wednesday. But he "doesn't even want to think about" retirement for the 10-year-old if he fails to recapture his form.

"He has had a back problem and has had injections. He is showing the right vibes at home but he did before the Cleeve Hurdle and his other races this season. I just hope he runs his race."

His stable-companion Him Of Praise, who refused at the fourth-last fence in the Grand National, will not run again this term. Sherwood said: "I was a little disappointed with him in the National but it was only the 11th race of his career and he made a mistake at Becher's which frightened him. I hope it will have no long-term effect and I am sure he'll be back next season."

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