MY last column on the 2nd of January provided a good winner with Ibleo and a nice pointer towards Seeyouatmidnight who rolled back the years to win the Veterans Chase at Sandown.
Let's hope the good start to the year and the good form this jumps season generally continues this weekend when we have the Lanzarote Hurdle at Kempton and the rearranged Welsh National at Chepstow.
My original selection here was Espoir De Romay who has just been declared a non-runner as I type. My alternative selection would be a small each way interest in IBIS DU RHEU who has been given a really good chance by the handicapper if he is in the mood after almost two years off the track. He has had a wind op and has run well after a break in the past so if he is ready to go first time out for Richard Hobson he might give us a good run for our money at 20-1. Hills are still paying 5 places despite the non runner so take advantage.
This doesn't look like a race with too much strength in depth to me and it might be a chance for DOUBLE SHUFFLE to get back to winning ways. His performance last time out in a better race was his best for a while and he will enjoy this return to Kempton over 3 miles where he is a course and distance winner and also ran an excellent 2nd place in the King George a couple of years back. Again, there are extra places available so make sure you get them.
3.10pm Chepstow – Welsh Grand National
The delayed Welsh Grand National will hopefully be worth the race and I'm still keen on LORD DU MESNIL for all the same reasons. He is a born stayer and will have no trouble with the heavy ground. He'll hopefully still be plugging on when others have cried enough.
My second choice at a big price is BIG RIVER who takes a bit of work to keep him up to his work in his races but Derek Fox is well used to him now and the horse is a real battler, running on to be placed in successive Cheltenham handicaps in the last two seasons. He is on a nice handicap mark and looks good value to get round.
3.30pm Kempton – Lanzarote Hurdle
Aways a competitive handicap hurdle at this time of year and it looks no different this time. There are plenty of each way opportunities and I have whittled it down to two that I like. The first is THE WHITE MOUSE who is a mare in very good form and looking for her third win in a row. She has clearly had issues in the past having missed some time on the track but is in good shape now and I'm surprised we can get a double figure price about her.
My second choice is CASTLE ROBIN who is quite progressive and remains unexposed in the handicap in my view, finishing a strong 2nd to a good horse last time out. I can see him improving again and going close at a big price.