Friday, January 08, 2021

The rescheduled 2020 Welsh Grand National

Precautionary 8.00am inspections have been called for all three of tomorrow's meetings - at Chepstow, Kempton and Wincanton.

The rescheduled Welsh Grand National (3.10) is the highlight at Chepstow with 18 set to face the starter. 

It's easy to see why the layers have Secret Reprieve clear favourite, although 7/2 about this comparatively inexperienced sort in a race of this nature looks extremely short. 

Writing in the Weekender [06-10.01.21] Evan Williams says:

"I've long thought of him as the ideal sort for a Welsh National and my aim this season was to get him in the race at as near to ten stone as possible. He won the Welsh National trial by an impressive 12 lengths at Chepstow last month...

"I was unsure when it was rescheduled to this weekend if the conditions would remain the same [keeping their old handicap marks] but thankfully they do as he does look to be particularly well in at the weights [runs off 134 but new mark is 142]. I think he has a huge chance of winning the big one..."

In my original preview I decided to take an each-way interest in Secret Reprieve's stablemate Prime Venture and I'm going to stick with that selection. A bit of a quirky individual, he finished fourth last year (Truckers Lodge second, Yala Enki third, The Three Amigos fifth) and turns up this time in better form having broken his duck over fences at Sedgefield in November; the trainer reports that victory has really helped boost the gelding's confidence.

The form of those behind in the trial run over two miles seven and a half furlongs on December 5th is of interest; The Two Amigos chased home Secret Reprieve with Bobo Mac third and Captain Drake fifth.

The Two Amigos likes to race prominently and in last year's renewal was still chasing winner Potters Corner two out before eventually finishing fifth; I just wonder whether connections might try to tweak the tactics a tad this time.

As I indicated in the original preview I'd expect Bobo Mac to improve and the additional 13 days since the trial will help his cause.

Captain Drake wouldn't be the most consistent of individuals but makes some appeal (to me, anyway) of those at bigger prices. Quoting Harry Fry in his Straight from the Stable feature (Weekender 23-27.12.20):

"He was in and out over fences last season, winning at Exeter before finishing runner-up [behind Truckers Lodge] in the Midlands National, but he had a couple of unseats in between.

"I was delighted when he won first time out this season when I ran him back over over hurdles at Uttoxeter. He did not travel or jump well at Cheltenham next time but he ran better at Chepstow...

"Hopefully that will have done his confidence some good as there were definitely signs of improvement. I am still keen to go for the Welsh National as the trip and ground will be fine." 

Vieux Lion Rouge is also eight pounds well in after winning the Becher Chase last time but regular pilot Tom Scudamore prefers Ramses De Teillee who finished second to Elegant Escape in the 2018 renewal. 

Prime Venture is the each-way suggestion, quoted at 12/1 with William Hill this evening who pay five places.

The closest I'm likely to get to Lanzarote in the next 18 months is the Lanzarote Hurdle (3.30 Kempton); if Chepstow were to fail its early morning inspection, I was considering taking a chance on the weather in Surrey. 

I thought The White Mouse had a small squeak in the race and I nearly fell into a trap. Some basic spadework confirmed a gnawing suspicion - I couldn't find a mare that had come home in front in over 30 years. Well cheesed off!

Friday, January 01, 2021

Sandown's Veterans' Chase Final 2020

Amongst the presents beneath the Christmas tree this year I found a copy of Barry Geraghty's autobiography True Colours; something to look forward to after the recent tightening of lockdown restrictions.

For the first wager of the new year, I'm off to Sandown for tomorrow's final of the 2020 Veterans' Chase Series (3.00) where 16 are set to face the starter; the going on the chase course is currently described as soft, good to soft in places.

Crosspark heads the market at the time of writing and I confess to being a fan. 

Back in 2019 Caroline Bailey's charge won the Eider at Newcastle off a mark of 135 and followed that with a fine second behind Takingrisks (declared for the 3.15 at Ayr) in the Scottish National off 142. 

Last season was a complete write-off but the gelding has returned to form this year. 

He was beaten threequarters of a length by Doing Fine (Regal Flow third) over an extended trip in the London National at this track four weeks ago and the handicapper subsequently raised him three pounds. 

Prior to that he was beaten threequarters of a length by Step Back in leg 9 of this veterans' series (Sametegal third, Regal Flow sixth, with Jepeck pulled up and Gold Present refusing to race). 

He races off a career-high mark tomorrow; the balance of his form suggests he is best on good / good to soft ground.

Sir Ivan has been running well recently. Connections had a handicap chase over two miles three and a half furlongs at Chepstow's Welsh National meeting as their original target; this one is short enough in the market as he doesn't look guaranteed to stay this trip on this ground.

Late Romantic was pipped at the post in heart-breaking fashion by The Dutchman in leg 12 of the series at Haydock 31 days ago (Fingerontheswitch fourth with Seeyouatmidnight and Burtons Well pulled up). Five pounds higher, the gelding also holds an entry in the 3.15 at Ayr but this race is the first preference.

On his first run after wind surgery Potters Legend won leg 10 of the series at Warwick (Theatre Guide second, Strong Pursuit third, Gold Present fourth, Valtor sixth). His subsequent second behind Storm Control at Cheltenham off a five pounds higher mark reads well. 

The first four from that Warwick leg appear closely matched - Strong Pursuit, with just ten starts to his name at the age of 11, looks comparatively unexposed but has yet to win over this trip while it's interesting to note that of the two Henderson runners Valtor, owned by Simon Munir and Issac Suede and with some decent form in the book, has been well backed during the day and is now much shorter in the market than Gold Present.

In last year's renewal Jepeck (132), sent off the 3/1 favourite, beat Regal Flow (127) a short head with Theatre Guide (137) a neck away in third (Burtons Well pulled up). Anthony Honeyball's charge has been pulled up twice this term and connections have decided to fit first-time cheekpieces; Burtons Well wears blinkers for the first time.

Theatre Guide and Regal Flow are aged 14 and both turn up in decent form; four of the past five winners have been no older than 12. 

Ben Poste parted company with Minellacelebration on the flat after the seventh in the Becher Chase. Prior to that Katy Price's charge won leg 8 of the series at Aintree with Sametegal third, Theatre Guide sixth and Ballydine ninth; Sametegal is the other runner in the field who has not won over this distance. 

In a competitive event two each-way chances are of interest: Fingerontheswitch and Seeyouatmidnight.

The former finished some 24 lengths behind Late Romantic in leg 12 while the latter pulled up in the same race, form I'm not reading too literally as both horses were making their seasonal debut. Late Romantic has gone up five while Fingerontheswitch has gone down two, Seeyouatmidnight one. 

I tipped Seeyouatmidnight to win the 2018 Grand National; in the event Sandy Thomson's charge ran out of petrol from three out. In his younger days he beat the likes of Bristol De Mai and Blacklion and finished third behind Vicente in the 2016 Scottish National. 

In more recent times he won leg 4 of this series at Carlisle in March (Jepeck fourth, Takingrisks fifth). A fragile sort with not too many miles on the clock, I'd expect to see significant improvement for that spin; his past record shows he has produced a good performance after a similar preparatory run.

Millie Wonnacott gets on well with Fingerontheswtich, her seven pound claim an added bonus. Form behind Copperhead in the Silver Buck Chase at Wincanton and Ok Corral in the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster reads well. 

Millie fractured vertebrae in her back in a fall at Newton Abbot in August but returned to ride Doing Fine to victory for this stable in the London National here four weeks ago. The Mulholland yard has been operating at a 24% win strike rate in the past fortnight; Fingerontheswtich is the younger of the two under consideration.

It's possible to make a case for several in the field. Fingerontheswtich is the each-way selection; at the time of writing Paddy Power offer 12/1 and pay one fifth the odds five places.