The Welsh National has attracted a top class field of staying chasers looking to stake their claims for the £100,000 prizemoney on offer (2.35pm, Saturday, Chepstow).
We haven’t seen Rebecca Curtis’ (pictured) Teaforthree (20/1) since he won a similar amount in the Grand National at Aintree in April. He was third by nine lengths to Sue Smith’s Auroras Encore. He came a close second to Michael Scudamore’s Monbeg Dude in this race last year under AP McCoy when carrying over a stone more than him. It was his third run of the season and he is likely to encounter heavy ground again this year.
Whilst locally trained and with obvious credentials, this is a massive ask first time out. Rather than the champion jockey, Patrick Corbett will be on board, taking a valuable 5lbs off his back. It is difficult to see him winning but we can expect a solid effort.
Gary Moore’s nine-year-old Well Refreshed has been laid out for this race and is the 8/1 joint favourite. In February he won the Betfred Grand National Trial at Haydock over three and a half miles. He beat Venetia Williams’ Rigadin De Beauchene by 10 lengths. It was his third consecutive win in handicap chases but he pulled up two months later when starting off an 11lb higher mark.
He began this season by coming second last in an inadequately short three mile handicap chase at Cheltenham in October. He followed up earlier this month in the London National at Sandown over three miles five furlongs. He finished two lengths behind Paul Nicholls’ There’s No Panic in third on good ground that was probably on the fast side for him. Joshua Moore takes the ride and has a good chance of emulating his brother Jamie’s recent successes with Sire De Grugy.
Equally fancied is Tom Dreaper’s Goonyella (9/1). This Irish-bred six-year-old son of Presenting has proved that he can plough through mud for three miles six furlongs. He did exactly that to win a chase on heavy ground at Punchestown in April, beating Willie Mullins’ Vesper Bell by the shortest of margins. That was off a mark of 127.
He came a creditable second over two miles six furlongs in a handicap chase at the end of October at Galway. Most recently he finished fifth by seven lengths to John Berry’s Cootamundra in the three mile Troytown Handicap Chase in November. Now rated 138, he will need to be progressive to feature off this mark. This will be his first trip across the Irish Sea.
Only two six-year-olds have won this race since 1980, Paul Nicholls’ L’Aventure in 2005 and Alan King’s Halcon Genelardais in 2006. It is no coincidence that they are both French-breds and that the ground was no more testing that soft.
Emma Lavelle’s seven-year-old Highland Lodge (10/1) has also attracted strong support. He put in an impressive performance on heavy ground at Cheltenham in December last year, winning a three mile one furlong novices’ chase. He beat David Pipe’s Our Father by 22 lengths. He ran well but didn’t quite get the trip when tried over four miles at the Festival, finishing a distant sixth more than 40 lengths behind Willie Mullins’ Back In Focus.
He has put in two good runs this season, most recently finishing fourth by 13 lengths to Nicky Henderson’s Triolo D’Alene in the Hennessy, having weakening after the last fence. The stable are in good form and he looks to have a serious chance of taking the top honours having proved he can perform off his current mark of 143.
A horse fancied for similar reasons is Jonjo O’Neill’s Merry King (11/1). He finished four and a half lengths behind Highland Lodge in the Hennessy but was staying on rather than weakening in the closing stages. Previously he came second in the United House Gold Cup Handicap Chase at Ascot in early November, six lengths behind Venetia Williams’ Houblon Des Obeaux. The Hennessy winner was three lengths behind him.
He looks likely to relish this test of stamina and has form on heavy ground. A six-year-old son of Old Vic, he may not be French-bred but he looks likely to feature here.
A heavy ground specialist worth looking at closely is Paul Nicholls’ Hawkes Point (14/1). This eight-year-old son of Kayf Tara might well have needed the run in his opening effort this season. He finished fourth by six lengths to Philip Hobbs’ De La Bech at this course on December 7 when giving weight to all who preceded him in a three mile handicap chase on heavy. He runs off the same mark here.
Last season he won and came second at Exeter on heavy ground in three mile chases but found the four mile National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival a bridge too far and pulled up. Ryan Mahon takes the ride. He has to be one for the shortlist.
Nicholls’ stable jockey Daryl Jacob takes the mount on board the veteran and topweight Tidal Bay (10/1). Jacob could not do the 10 stone that stablemate Hawkes Point carries so the riding arrangements were dictated by the weights. No horse over 10 years old has succeeded in this race since 1976 but 12-year-old Tidal Bay is a class act, capable of producing extraordinary performances when the mood takes him.
He did not enjoy the scorching pace of the Betfair Chase won by Cue Card at Haydock. He finished 30 lengths behind him in fifth. But he proved that he retains his ability on his seasonal debut, winning the Grade 2 Bet365 Hurdle over three miles one furlong at Wetherby earlier in the month. He beat Alan King’s Medinas by a length. Jacob has only ridden him once before. They romped to victory by 15 lengths in the three mile five furlong Bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown in April despite carrying top weight. You cannot rule out his chances of doing the same again, especially on his favoured testing going.
The Grand National winning trainer, Sue Smith, sends out another interesting son of Presenting, the seven-year-old Vintage Star (14/1). He scored on his seasonal debut at Carlisle at the beginning of November, confirming his ability to perform on very testing ground over three miles one furlong. He beat David Pipe’s Buddy Bolero by a neck.
He followed up by coming second at Newcastle, losing out to Colin Tizzard’s Hey Big Spender by a neck on good ground. He looks to be well handicapped as his mark of 137 is unchanged and he ought to put in a good performance.
Welsh National Betting Tips Advice
Favourites do not have a great record in the Welsh National. Only one has succeeded in the past ten years but the betting market is usually not far wrong. Horses close to the top of it generally come in.
Gary Moore’s Well Refreshed looks to have the strongest claims of the three market leaders but does not provide much value in this type of contest. Teaforthree represents Wales and local trainer Rebecca Curtis has expressed a personal ambition to win this race.
Both in-form Nicholls’ horses make stronger appeal and it is hard to put anyone off the veteran Tidal Bay. But our pick has to be his stablemate HAWKES POINT, the heavy ground specialist, each-way at a current best price of 14/1 with Bet365, BetVictor or race sponsors Coral Bookmaker.