Connections of Highland Lodge will be praying for rain at Chepstow ahead of this year’s Welsh National with the progressive chaser likely to relish conditions that are softer underfoot.
The Emma Lavelle-trained chance is a 10/1 shot to land the famous renewal according to Ladbrokes and the in-form trainer has made it no secret that he’s being primed for a strong showing in the 3m5f contest.
A game fourth in the recent Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury represented a decent effort on faster ground when reeled in by the re-opposing Rocky Creek and eventual winner Trio D’Alene.
And although he was outpaced on that occasion there’s reason to suggest that Highland Lodge’s host of rivals will find it difficult to match Lavelle’s front-runner if having to wade through a mudbath over Chepstow’s stamina sapping trip.
Writing on her website following the Hennessy, Highland Lodge’s handler said: “He has been out in the field every day since and seems to have come out of the race well, so at this stage the Welsh National is very much the target.”
If taken in good faith then those comments are another positive for a horse who should find no issue with both track and trip at Chepstow.
The son of Flemensfirth, owned by The Unusual Suspects Syndicate, romped to a 22-length victory last season in the Ryman Stationery Novices’ Chase on heavy ground at Cheltenham and looked unfazed by Wincanton’s 3m3½f test when a recent runner-up to Badger Ales Trophy winner Standing Ovation.
Now in his second season over fences, Highland Lodge certainly merits respect at the Welsh National distance, especially if conditions are in his favour.
Undoubtedly, market leader Rocky Creek is fairly priced as the 7/1 favourite following his Hennessy second and past Grade Two success.
But Wales’ premier race represents another step up in trip and if he fails to last the distance then Highland Lodge could well become the fourth seven-year-old winner in the past 10 years.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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