There will be no gorging on Christmas dinners for those horses set to contest the Welsh Grand National, with the Chepstow showpiece set to be an attritional affair.
The three-mile-five-furlong contest is likely to be run on heavy ground on December 27, so those post-turkey stamina reserves will be tested for the jockeys as well as the four-legged competitors.
Last year’s renewal was won by Emperor’s Choice for Venetia Williams, whose horses seem to thrive with plenty of cut in the ground.
The eight-year-old is back to defend his crown, but we are opposing the 10/1 shot, deciding instead to side with this trio of candidates in south Wales.
Woodford County – 20/1
Philip Hobbs’ stable can do no wrong at the moment with his horses in flying form, and so it’s not hard to imagine the Minehead handler landing this race.
His eight-year-old has so often run well in these staying contests finishing third in both the Midlands Grand National and the Eider Chase at Newcastle.
He won a marathon race at Exeter to warm up for this and comes into this year’s renewal off a mark of 129, the same rating he finished seventh off in the race 12 months ago.
If continuing his partnership with seven pounds claimer Ciaram Gethings, who has partnered him on his last five outings and most recent two wins, that weight will come down even further.
The ground will be perfect for him and at a price more than double his SP in 2014, this previous course winner is certainly worth taking a chance on.
Bob Ford – 20/1
With form figures of 1P120P1PPP1 it’s pretty clear that it’s a case of all-or-nothing for Rebecca Curtis’ eight year-old.
What can be said in his favour now is that his win last week suggests that the cloud the stable was well and truly under at the start of the season looks to have passed.
That victory came on bottomless ground at Ffos Las in which he stayed on strongly off top-weight under Sean Bowen in an 11-length success.
He’s only got a four pound penalty for that runaway victory, so comes into this with a nice weight of 10-11 on his back, as he looks to continue a winning partnership with the 18-year-old jockey.
A slog in the mud is the gelding’s ideal conditions and it looks as if he’s one that appreciates home comforts, with a record of 3112P11P11 at local(ish) courses of Ffos Las and Chepstow.
If on a going day, expect Curtis’ gelding to outrun his big odds.
Tour Des Champs – 12/1
Our final selection is for those who like to follow the trends, and Nigel Twiston Davies’ horse is a stand-out pick in that sense.
We’ve looked over recent renewals and have come across these patterns that can help us pick out the winner.
- – Horses aged between six and eight have won the last 11 renewals from just 55 per cent of the total runners
- – In all six runnings on heavy ground (as is likely to be this year) since 2004, the winner has carried 10-09 or less
- – Every winner since the late 1980s had previously won over three miles or further
- – 14 of the last 16 winners had finished in the first three of a Listed or Graded chase
- – The last 25 winners had all had a run in the previous 55 days
- – 16 of the last 17 winners finished in the first four on their previous start
- – No winner in 25 years had run more than twice before that season
- – French-bred horses have won half of the last 10 renewals from just 24 per cent of the runners
There are some pretty stand-out trends there and of all the current entries the son of Robin Des Champs is the only one to tick every box.
He returned from a break with a victory around Chepstow at the start of the month and looks to have the perfect profile for the race.
- All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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