Super Saturday preview featuring the Coral Welsh Grand National
The festive periods loss has certainly been 2021’s gain when it comes to the racing this weekend. Rearranged races feature on bumper cards from Kempton, Chepstow and Wincanton. The feature race of the day is the rearranged Coral Welsh Grand National at Chepstow over a gruelling 3 miles and 6 furlongs. Stamina will certainly be to the fore on ground officially described as heavy.
Ask Dillion to relish testing Chepstow conditions
My first selection of the day comes in the 12:50 where I like the chances of Fergal O’Brien’s Ask Dillion 4/1. Starting the season off novice chasing, things didn’t go to plan and Ask Dillion was quickly switched back to the smaller obstacles. He finished a highly respectable 7 length fourth to Main Fact late in November before just being denied by Captain Zebo giving him 7lbs last time out. Captain Zebo has put together a string of 5 wins and is now officially rated 145 so that would look strong form. Taking into account Liam Harrison’s 7lbs claim, Ask Dillion races off a pound lower than his last winning mark of 137. Including his PTP, Ask Dillion has form figures of 1,3,2 on heavy ground and two previous trips to Chepstow have yielded second and third place finishes. Given he’s finished in the first two places on 8 out of 13 lifetime starts under rules I believe he represents a solid bet at 4/1 and should give punters a good run for their money.
Elsewhere on the Chepstow card I like the chances of Hold That Thought 4/1 in the 1:58. A winner of his novice hurdle on heavy ground, conditions should be in his favour and so far this season he’s shaped as though a real test of stamina will see him to best effects. His two chase starts to date have come on soft ground over just shy of three miles. Conditions are likely to be worse this time out and given the galloping nature of Chepstow, I think this race could deteriorate into a bit of a slog, perhaps just what Hold That Thought wants. Carrying only 10 stone 3 pounds, I believe Hold That Thought represents a solid bet at the prices and I’d expect him to be hitting the frame or running very close.
Two against the field in what’s expected to be an attritional Welsh National
On to the big one now and with book makers offering plenty of enhanced place terms I’ve decided to highlight two I like against the field. There’s no doubting current favourite Secret Reprieve will be tough to beat given his new mark is 8lbs higher than the one he runs off. At 7/2 he’s not my kind of price for a race of this nature. The first challenger I will put up against him is Dominateur 12/1. Dominateur is horse who has always saved his best for Chepstow with course form reading 2,3,1,1. He’ll have no problems with the testing conditions either having won on heavy and recorded a placed effort at Chepstow also on heavy ground. His prep run for the race came in a hot 3 runner race at Sandown against Pym and If The Cap Fits. Given those two rivals are rated 153 and 152 I think Dominateur did well to finish 13 lengths behind the pair racing off level weights with Pym and conceding 6lbs to If The Cap Fits. Its also worth noting that Dominateur jumped with zero consistency or fluency and as a result we do have to hope he jumps a fair bit better when returning to his beloved Chepstow. Fingers crossed that run has put him spot on for this.
The Second horse I like to run a big race in this years’ Welsh Grand National is Richard Hobson’s Lord Du Mesnil 12/1. This horse had an exceptional winter last season notching up 3 wins and 3 seconds before running an absolute blinder in the National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. Despite being headed two from home and clattering into the last, I loved how game he was up the Cheltenham Hill. Lord Du Mesnil continued to plug on and looked a real tough stayer, a trait that should serve him well here. A winner on heavy ground, we know he handles conditions and his two
runs so far this season suggest this may have been his target. Two runs over a trip short of his optimum should have put him spot on for this return to a stamina sapping trip.
Imperial Aura to enhance Ryanair credentials in the last of three Grade 2’s on the day
As mentioned before, the disruption over the Christmas period has resulted in a high-quality days racing featuring three Grade 2’s. Wincanton stages the first of these, the rearranged Dipper Novices Chase, at 2:05. The declarations have been somewhat cut up for this two and a half mile contest but we’ve been left with three quality runners. Protektorat heads the betting at 2/5 with Messire Des Obeaux a 9/4 shot and Lieutenant Rocco the outsider of three at 16/1. I think the 16/1 on offer for Lieutenant Rocco is a fair price in what could be a tactical race, but the vote would still go to Dan Skelton’s Protektorat 2/5. A perfect 2/2 since sent novice chasing, Protektorat has jumped superbly and is now officially rated 154 after thumping Southfield Stone by 17 lengths at Cheltenham last time out. I’m hoping Harry Skelton pops him out in front once more and puts his rivals jumping under pressure from start to finish. It is worth mentioning the high-class back form of Messire Des Obeaux who was third in the 2017 Ballymore and won nicely on chase debut. There is the dreaded bounce factor to worry about with him though and at 9/4 he’s short enough.
The next Grade 2 of the day comes from Kempton at 2:20 and is the second rearranged race of the day, the Relkeel Hurdle, which like the Dipper was due to be staged at Cheltenham on New Years Day. A high-class field go to post which features the likes of Summerville Boy, Thomas Darby and Call Me Lord but the selection will be current favourite Mcfabulous 13/8 who drops back to 2 miles 5 furlongs after a fine effort in the Long Distance Hurdle. That was his first attempt at three miles and although he didn’t appear to stay that day, I do believe he’ll get three miles in time. Mcfabulous has always been held in high regard by connections and started to repay their faith when winner of the rearranged EBF Novices Handicap Hurdle in February last season over course and distance. He reappeared with a stylish success at Chepstow before travelling like a good thing against the likes of Thyme Hill and Paisley Park last time out before not quite getting home. Summerville Boy looks the main threat to me but he does tend to make a mess of one or two hurdles in the latter stages. This may give his rivals an edge at a crucial stage of the race. I believe the demands of Kempton will play to Mcfabulous strengths and I suspect the race will be run to suit. You’d expect to see Harry Cobden sit in behind the pace and make use of his slick jumping and high cruising speed before being produced coming down to the last.
The Ladbrokes Silviniaco Conti Chase is the final Grade 2 of the day and follows the Relkeel Hurdle at Kempton at 2:55. Just the 4 runners go to post but it looks a cracking contest. The 155 rated Clondaw Castle is the outsider of 4, last season’s Ascot Chase winner Riders Onthe Storm sits around the 6/1 mark and the quirky but extremely talented Master Tommytucker is a general 10/3 shot. This year’s favourite and my idea of the winner is Kim Baileys Imperial Aura 4/5. A commanding winner of last season’s Northern Trust Novices Handicap Chase at The Festival, Imperial Aura looks a horse going from strength to strength. He won cosily on reappearance at Carlisle before putting in a fine round of jumping and powering to success in the Grade 2 Chanelle Pharma 1965 Chase at Ascot in November. Imperial Aura will arguably have to put in his best performance to date if he is to beat Master Tommytucker giving him 6lbs. However, I just think jumping may prove the vital factor like it so often does in these big races. Master Tommytucker is a horse who gets a fair bit of stick for his jumping given his patchy completion record. This is quite a harsh reputation for a horse who is actually a very good jumper in the main. Despite jumping better this season he has tended to throw in a few of his worst jumps towards the end of his races, potentially when starting to feel the pinch.
On the contrast Imperial Aura seems to jump for fun under a typically aggressive Bass ride and has put in some of his best leaps at the final few fences. Coming up the Kempton straight it may well develop into a ding dong battle and for me there’s only one winner should this happen. Jumping is the aim of the game and Imperial Aura can enhance his Ryanair credentials with a bold success.
Kempton to relight Solo’s spark at big odds in the Lanzarote
The Ladbrokes Lanzarote Handicap Hurdle over 2 miles 5 furlongs is the big handicap hurdle of the weekend and I will take a chance on the top weighted Solo 20/1. He’s failed to show what I’m sure most punters think he is capable of so far this season but hoping a step up in trip, a sounder surface and a return to Kempton will spark him back to form. Solo reappeared in the Unibet Elite Hurdle and jumped beautifully throughout before ultimately disappointing when it came to his finishing kick. The same could be said for his last start at Sandown in a handicap hurdle where once again he jumped and travelled beautifully before failing to finish with any sort of umph. The conditions were extremely testing that day and a return to soft ground at Kempton will be much more to his liking. Given his lack of finishing kick I’m hoping the step up in trip can suit too. On a course where slick jumping and smooth travelling is of paramount importance, I’m hoping Solo can show us what he’s made of. After all, his officially rated 157 Adonis juvenile win came at the track on similar ground. Yes, it was probably an overreaction by the handicapper, but he goes off 144 in the Lanzarote so even if the handicapper was close to right he’s surely on a nice mark.
Sizeable Sam the pick of the bets elsewhere at Wincanton and Kempton
To round off the day’s action I thought I would highlight a few horses who caught my eye in some of the lesser races from around the grounds. Sizeable Sam 7/2 looks a nice price in the 1:30 at Wincanton. A mark of 124 could well underestimate his abilities having beaten impressive Kempton winner and now 129 rated Cadzand in a bumper last season. Kim Bailey’s Two For Gold has been declared at both Kempton in the 1:45 and Wincanton in the 2:35. Unfortunately I don’t know which race connections are favouring but I’m hopeful he can bounce back and put in a better showing after disappointing in the Ladbroke Trophy. Finally, I thought It Sure Is 7/1 was interesting switching back to hurdles for Henderson and De Boinville in the 12:35 at Kempton and think Molineaux 5/2 is the one to beat in the last at Wincanton.
Best of luck if you’re having a bet this weekend.
By Sam Rideout
Follow me on twitter – @TheTr17pleP