AFTER a weekend off last week I'm back raring to go and the highlight for me is the Welsh Grand National from Chepstow.
There is also a good supporting card at Chepstow together with some great stuff from Sandown including a brilliant veterans chase where I have a strong fancy.
The biggest race of the day is the Welsh Grand National and with some firms offering 6 places each way I am picking out three against the field. The race was cancelled on the 27th December and rearranged for today due to waterlogged ground but it has hardly been tropical weather since then and I think we can expect an absolute slog in the mud. They tend to be reasonably successful betting propositions for me because you can often rule out quite a number of the field who are unlucky to enjoy the gruelling conditions whilst you can be fairly confident about those that will enjoy the stamina test in heavy ground.
One such horse is EMPEROR'S CHOICE who is the perfect horse for a race like this when he is on his game. A previous winner of the race in 2014, he showed that he is still as good as ever with a nice win in the mud last week at Haydock. I have a slight concern that this race will come too soon for him after those exertions but Venetia Williams must be happy that he is fit and well and ready to go again or she wouldn't have kept him in this race. Running off bottom weight in the handicap will also be of huge benefit to him and I can see him going very close if he is on his game.
The second one that I like in the race is another horse at a big price called SILSOL, trained by Paul Nicholls and ridden by Sean Bowen. He has a very good record over hurdles but has had very little experience over fences which is obviously a bit of a concern in a race like this. He does get in on a very fair handicap mark though when compared to his hurdles mark and he caught the eye for me as a very interesting contender because his limited form over fences is actually quite good. I would have to assume that Paul Nicholls is comfortable with his jumping ability or he wouldn't throw him in here so working on that assumption I think he looks a good prospect because he can stay the distance and won't have any problem with the heavy ground. At the current prices I can't let him go off without a small each way bet.
My main selection in the race though is ASK THE WEATHERMAN who is equally fascinating. He is a prolific winner in point-to-point races which is of course a different world to this sort of race but his form has translated nicely onto the racecourse proper with an easy win at Exeter in November suggesting he could be a good bit better than his handicap mark. His win over Rebel Rebellion in a hunter chase on heavy ground in February is encouraging as is his win over 3m4f in a point to point race in April. There are plenty of ticks in his columns for me and with the suggestion that he is ahead of the handicapper I think he looks like a cracking bet. He could turn out to be a useful staying chaser in these sort of conditions and 14/1 looks a great price to me.
This is a belter of a veterans race and although there are loads of good old horses involved and some with decent recent form I just cannot see past GAS LINE BOY who is in the form of his life at the moment. This race is worth over £60,000 for the winner and despite the win last time out in the Grand Sefton at Aintree I think Ian Williams has had this race in mind for a while. Cloudy Too would be a danger if returning to form but he hasn't looked great so far this season. With the form that Gas Line Boy is in I think we will get a great run for our money.
In the final race of the day at Sandown I have an eye on CLAYTON who looks like a nice each way prospect to me. Gary Moore is a master with his multi-disciplined horses. This one is rated 100 on the flat and despite being a nine year old I think he still has some potential over hurdles. He won nicely at Lingfield last time out and I can see him being hard to pass on this heavy ground today.
- 2.05pm Chepstow – Ask The Weatherman – 2pt each way at 14-1 with Paddy Power (paying 5 places)
- 2.05pm Chepstow – Emperor's Choice – 1pt each way at 18-1 with SkyBet (paying 6 places)
- 2.05pm Chepstow – Silsol – 0.5pt each way at 33-1 with SkyBet (paying 6 places)
- 3.00pm Sandown – Gas Line Boy – 4pt win at 5-1 with William Hill, Bet365 and Paddy Power
- 3.35pm Sandown – Clayton – 2pt each way at 13-2 with William Hill and Paddy Power