Chepstow racecourse, and the Welsh Grand National in particular, is one of the toughest tests of stamina on the racing calendar, and that’s before this year’s conditions are taken into account.
After falling foul of the weather in late December the Monmouthshire course is set to ride on the extreme side of heavy on Saturday for the 3m5f marathon.
And with the track notoriously difficult to get home at, it is likely that the winner of the Grade 3 prize will need to stay that little bit further.
Looking back at the last five renewals run on heavy ground paints a pretty clear picture.
Of the 20 horses to make the frame in those races 14 had either won over a trip of at least 3m2f or placed at 3m5f-plus.
Furthermore just four of those charges had yet to win in heavy conditions, so it’s best to look down the obvious avenues in such a race.
And with getting up Chepstow’s long home straight to contend with, the avoidance of a big weight is also key, with nearly two-thirds of those to make the frame carrying 10st 6lbs or less.
So without further ado, we’ve picked out five of the current entries that meet those criteria.
The 2013 winner is likely to be well fancied to become the first horse to win the race twice in 26 years.
Kerry Lee’s 11-year-old comes into this race off a five pound lower handicap mark than when he won it two years ago.
That isn’t to say he’s been hopelessly out of form. While the gelding hasn’t won since, he put a bold show in the London National at Sandown in December when beaten seven lengths, and can be fancied to go close again.
The 11-year-old must frustrate trainer Venetia Williams immensely, with her charge pulling up in six of his seven runs between March 2013 and February 2015.
Among those ‘PU’s he managed to win the Grade 3 Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock showing he is not devoid of ability.
Things do look to have clicked slightly these days with the addition of blinkers working a treat. A winner last time out, he comes into this off his highest winning mark to date.
Winning the Devon Marathon over 3m6f on heavy ground is certainly a good way to enhance your claims for a race such as the Welsh National.
Philip Hobbs’ gelding has formed a strong partnership with claimer Ciaran Gethings, winning two of their six outings together, while also placing in both the Eider Chase and the Midlands National.
His handler can seemingly do no wrong at the moment, and with the man himself expecting a big run from the son of Sonus, he could be plenty of value.
What may worry prospective backers of Patrick Griffin’s grey is that he has only completed one of his last four outings, and even then he was tailed off 86 lengths behind the winner.
Nevertheless, on a going day the 11-year-old is capable of going well. The two falls at Aintree in December and in the Grand National last Aintree came late on in the race when he was still going well.
A former Eider Chase winner over four miles, stamina will be no problem, but staying upright could be.
John Spearing will be hoping for plenty of horses to come out at the declaration stage, with his horse sat at number 32 of the weights.
If his gelding does get a run, a feather weight will ensure he has every opportunity to outrun his lofty odds.
A previous course winner with form on heavy ground, he must enter calculations, but this will take a lot more winning that the level of contests he has been competing at previously in his career.
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