Racing Tips Keenland Phoenix Stakes (Group1) (2yo) 6f Curragh Sunday

First run at the charming, but now sadly defunct, Phoenix Park racecourse (parade ring pictured below) in 1902, it was known to generations of Dublin's racegoers as the "1500". It was run over the minimum distance and was won by some very fast horses such as Windy City (1951) Current Coin (1965) and Marble Arch (1972). Interestingly Windy City went on to achieve a Timeform rating of 142, which remains one of the highest in the organisation's history. Having been promoted to Group1 status in 1979 the distance was extended by a furlong in 1983 and following the closure of The Phoenix Park racecourse in 1990 the race was moved to Leopardstown until arriving at it's current venue at The Curragh in 2002.

Having won the contest an amazing fifteen times, including last year with Caravaggio, who won this year's renewal of the Group1 Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot, Aidan O' Brien again holds a very strong hand. He has seven of the twelve entries including Sioux Nation, the winner of the 5f Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot. However this son of Scat Daddy looked well suited by the drop in trip at The Royal Meeting, so perhaps The Master of Ballydoyle's best chance of landing a sixteenth success lies with the improving filly, Actress. With six runs under her belt the daughter of Declaration Of War certainly wont be beaten by lack of experience, and her last three runs have shown her to be a filly very much on "the up". She ran a solid race to finish sixth in Royal Ascot's 6f Albany Stakes, and put up another decent performance when finding the drop back to 5f against her when beaten a neck in a Tipperary listed contest. However it was her run in the 6f Group3 Anglesey stakes here at The Curragh last time that was a real eye opener. Starting at 7/1 ( from an opening 11/2) she travelled sweetly throughout, and when Seamie Heffernan asked her to go and win her race, she quickened in the style of a top class filly to put 1 3/4L between her and the runner up Theobold at the line. As the runner up had won his maiden by 8L and subsequently finished second to Derby antepost favourite, The Pentagon, the form looks pretty solid. Getting her 3lbs filly allowance she can make them all go on Sunday.

A major fly in the ointment may be Gordon Elliott's exciting son of Bated Breath, Beckford. He made his racecourse debut over course and distance and starting at the generous odds of 10/1 hosed up from Red Persian. The runner up hasn't done a lot for the form but did manage to get his head in front over 7f at Leopardstown. However it was Beckford's next run which marked him out as being a bit special. Up in class to Group2 level in The Railway Stakes again over course and distance he won comfortably by a length from Jim Bolger's Verbal Dexterity with Aidan O'Briens Murillo a further 1 1/4L back in third. As Murillo had been beaten less than 1/2L in the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot the form looks solid, although it has to be said the O'Brien horse may not have been ideally suited by the good-soft ground at The Curragh. Another point of interest vis a vis O'Briens filly Actress, is that Commander Grigio was beaten 7L by her in the Anglesey whereas the same horse finished only 5L behind Beckford in the Railway. However with Mr Elliott turning his prodigious training talents towards the flat, it's going to be very interesting to see how the Beckford story pans out.

The Tom Dascombe trained Frozen Angel ran well to finish fourth in the 5f Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot, (2 3/4L behind Sioux Nation) and took another step forward when upped to 5 1/2f in the Group2 Prix Robert Papin at Madison's-Laffitte when going down by 1/2L to Unfortunately. By Dark Angel out of the Verglas mare, Cut no ice, his pedigree suggests that six furlongs could prove his optimum trip. The dam was no great shakes as a racehorse but did win a small 5f contest at Folkestone and was placed twice over 6f at Newbury and Newmarket, while his prolific sire has got plenty of milers including Lincoln winner Gabrial, and Cambridgeshire winner, Bronze Angel. With Tom Dascombe's talent with sprinters in mind, this son of Dark Angel is certainly worth a second look.

Mick Channon must have a high opinion of his Bath winner Helvetian to fly this high, and this son of Swiss Spirit was quite impressive on the good-soft surface. Given similar conditions on Sunday he could be interesting.

Selection : Actress

Danger. : Beckford

John Gray

Betting Tips Scottish Grand National 

Preview: Scottish Grand National 4m Ayr Saturday – Last year’s winner, Vicente did the Oddsguru proud when coming home in front at the rewarding odds of 14/1, and racing off the same mark this year, a repeat is certainly not out of the question, as it is a contest that has been good to those who have performed well in it before. For example, Godsmejudge followed up his win in 2013, with a second in 2014, and Merigo, sandwiched in a second, between his two wins in 2010 and 2012. However, it has to be said that Vicente, having come a cropper at the first in The Grand National two weeks ago, doesn’t seem to be in the same form as last year, when running a race full of promise in Cheltenham’s 4m National Hunt Chase to finish fifth, prior to coming here. On the plus side, this is definitely his time of year, and there seemed to be plenty of confidence in him at Aintree before his unlucky fall at the first. His early exit will have saved him from a hard race so is not one to lose faith in, and he could yet join the elite band of Queens Taste, Androma and Barona who have won this in consecutive years. 
The Nicholls yard have another strong contender with the 7yo Novice, Arpege D’Alene. By the same sire, Dom Alco, as Vicente, he also demonstrated his stamina credentials, when staying on to finish 4th in this years renewal of the National Hunt Chase. Hampered after three out, he rallied under pressure to finish six lengths behind the winner, Tiger Roll. He races close to the pace, always a plus in this contest, and will enjoy the likely decent ground, but I just wonder if his burden of 11st6lbs might find this Novice out. 
Nicky Henderson has never won this, or indeed any other “National” but does have a really strong looking candidate with Premier Bond. A 7yo son of Kayf Tara out of that terrific race mare, Celtic Native, who won ten times for Philip Hobbs, and ran third to the great Barracouda in the 25f Longwalk Hurdle, should find Saturday’s 4m test right up his street. Beaten 14L by his super star stable companion, Might Bite, over an inadequate 19f last December, he put up strong staying performances to win his next two Novice chases. Sent off a 9/1 shot for the 24 runner, 26f, Kim Muir Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, despite being hampered at the first, he stayed on strongly in the closing stages to finish 3rd, 1 1/2L behind the winner. He races on Saturday off a mark only 2lbs higher than Cheltenham, giving him a nice racing weight of 11st, and the 7yo might just prove to be the first to bring a “National” home to the Master of Seven Barrows. 
The Neil Mulholland trained Southfield Royale ran a fine race in that 2016 renewal of the National Hunt Chase, won by Minella Rocco, with subsequent Gold Cup runner up Native River in second, and Ayr hero Vicente back in 5th, to finish 4th, but the wheels seem to have come off since. Well beaten at Punchestown in April, he trailed in 12th of 14 on his reappearance in January. Connections seem to have kept the faith, because he was sent off a well backed 7/1 shot for the Kim Muir, where he fell at the ninth fence. I suppose he remains an animal of some potential, and as a son of Presenting, should be well suited by decent ground at the weekend, but one has to wonder if his jumping will stand the test. 
The Warren Greatrex trained, Missed Approach, certainly didn’t look a 50/1 chance when putting up a great performance to finish 2nd in this years renewal of The National Hunt Chase. Having raced prominently throughout, the 7yo was 8L down after the second last and stayed on stoutly to get within 3L of the winner Tiger Roll. A prominent racer with bags of stamina is what is required for the Ayr fourmiler and the Greatrex contender certainly qualifies on these two fronts. However weight is a negative and with top weight of 11st9lbs to shoulder he has it all to do. However Missed Approach is clearly an animal on the “up” and might well give pilot Leighton Aspell a Scottish National to add to his two Aintree triumphs. 
Jonjo O’Neill’s Another Hero, should enjoy the step up in trip, and will like the good ground forecast for weekend. He stayed on into fourth place in a 3m Ascot Handicap in December and again ran well over Doncaster’s 3m in January to finish 3rd. There was money for him in the Kim Muir at the Festival, but badly hampered at the 9th fence, he never got back into the race and finished 13th. By Kalinisi out of a Strong Gale mare, 4miles on good ground should suit and with his nice racing weight of 10st10lbs is worth considering. 
The Nicky Richards trained, Looking Well, has won four of his thirteen starts, and all four victories have come in either April or May. He is another with a nice racing weight of 10st12lbs and he looked a strong stayer when winning over 26f at Kelso last May off a mark of 122. He ran another solid race when finishing 2nd to Ziga Boy off a 10lbs higher mark in January over 3m. He can be forgiven his last run on unsuitably soft ground in March and should find conditions in his favour on Saturday. With useful 3lbs claimer, Ryan Day in the plate worth considering. 
Selection : Premier Bond 

E.W. : Looking Well 

: Another Hero 

John Gray

Irish Grand National Betting Tips

BoyleSports Irish Grand National Handicap Chase 3m5f Fairyhouse Monday – Last week’s selection, Blaklion, ran a smashing race to finish fourth in the Grand National and if only, pilot Fehilly, had been able to hold onto him for a bit longer, he may well have gone very close. However the race was won by an exceptional stayer who could well figure in Cheltenham’s showpiece next year, and it was great to see all forty runners return unscathed in what was the 170th renewal of the great race. 

Fairyhouse stages merely the 145th renewal of the Irish equivalent on Monday, and let’s hope for a similar happy outcome there. 
With a maximum field of thirty the Irish edition looks an easier puzzle to solve than Aintree, but with only one favourite, (8/1), a 50/1, and three 33/1 shots winning in the last decade, it has proved anything but. However, it is a contest with some particularly strong trends, not least the significance of weight. Only two animals, the Gold Cup placed Commanche Court, (2000) and Aintree Hero Bobbyjo (1998) have managed to carry more than 11st to victory in the past twenty years. Age has also been significant with only two 6yo’s making it to the winners enclosure since 1973, and 11yo’s are nearly as infrequent visitors, with Jenny Pitman’s Mudahim twenty years ago, the last to succeed. The most successful age group have been the 7 and 8yo’s with surprisingly, for such a competitive race, plenty of Novices,(21 in the last fifty years) coming home in front. A recent outing, and a win going right handed, have also been important. 

Mouse Morris has been the most successful handler with two wins in the past decade, but a surprising absentee from the roll of honour is Willie Mullins. Dad, Paddy, won the race four times, but Willie has failed to hit the back of the net, and indeed has drawn a blank from twenty runners in the last ten years. 
Eddie Harty has never won the race either but looks to have a strong candidate with his 8yo Minella Foru. This son of Kings Theatre out of a Topanoora mare was always going to be a staying chaser, and so it proved when stepped up to three miles in the 2015 running of The Paddy Power Chase, he stayed on strongly to beat the useful Ucello Conti. Sidelined for over a year he made a satisfactory reappearance in a Grade2 Hurdle at Naas in January. Fairly handicapped, and in the Green and Gold colours of JP McManus, he is worth considering. 
Following his three Cheltenham Festival wins and four further victories at Aintree, man of the moment, Robbie Power, will be hoping for further success when he climbs aboard the Jessica Harrington trained Our Duke on Monday. The 7yo Novice has only had the three races over fences, winning the first two and coming second last time. He comfortably won a 2 1/2m Navan Novices in December, and took a big step forward nineteen days later when winning a Leopardstown Grade1 over three miles. Last time he was putting in all his best work at the finish when beaten by Disko over an inadequate 21 1/2f again at Grade1 level. Well found in the markets, he looks a danger to all particularly if there is “soft” or “yielding” in the going description. 

Ever since winning a 3m6f handicap at last years Punchestown Festival off a mark of 138, Harry Fry has had the Irish Grand National in mind for his talented 9yo, Fletchers Flyer. He did his prospects no harm when finishing a good third in an Ascot Grade2 conditions event over three miles eight weeks ago, and will relish the step back up in trip on Monday. He looks well treated on a mark of 145 and has to be on the shortlist. 
Could the Crafty Butcher be the one to at last fill that gaping hole in the C.V. Of the Master of Closutton? He has never won beyond three miles, but the way he finished in the hugely competitive, 24 1/2f, twenty eight runner Paddy Power Chase at Christmas strongly suggests that this 10yo could be well suited by a step up in trip, and racing off a mark of 135, could put an even broader than usual smile, on the visage of Willie Mullins come Monday evening. 
Despite being given too much to do in Cheltenham’s 3m2f Kim Muir, and meeting trouble at the second last, the Patrick Kelly trained Mall Dini ran a great race to finish 5th only 3L behind the winner. Surprisingly, this hero of last years three miles Pertemps Final at the Festival, has yet to score over fences, but his run in the Kim Muir was certainly a move in the right direction. Well suited by good ground, and only 1lb higher than his Hurdles mark, this 7yo has his best years in front of him, and it will come as no surprise if he breaks his steeplechasing duck on Monday. 

Selection : Mall Dini 

E.W. : Fletchers Flyer (if abs The Crafty Butcher) 

John Gray

Racing Tips Randox Health Grand National

With our selections finishing second in the last two renewals of the great race, the Oddsguru is due a change of fortune, so here’s hoping that this year we can highlight that special animal, with the right blend of pace, stamina, and above all courage, to take home Saturday’s great prize. 

Our selection last year, The Last Samurai, ran a superb race to finish second, and showed that the fire was still burning brightly, when finishing second to Definitely Red in that good Grand National Trial, The Grimthorpe Chase at Doncaster in Febuary, a contest he won in 2016. However, he now carries top weight, leaving him with a burden 16lbs higher than last year, obviously posing a rather serious question. Despite that, his great run last year, remains fresh in the memory, and it will come as no great surprise to see him jumping the last in contention again. 

Irish training sensation, Gordon Elliott, who handled the 2007 winner, Silver Birch, runs two likely looking types, Cause of Causes and Ucello Conti. Having now won at three consecutive Cheltenham Festivals the former is beginning to acquire mythical status, and it will come as no surprise if this hardy, brave, and amazingly versatile animal gets his head in front on Saturday. Stable companion, Ucello Conti, a half brother to that outstanding chaser, Silviniaco Conti, also has plenty to recommend him. This ex French 9yo has been jumping steeplechase fences since he was three and as a relatively new recruit to the Elliott Academy ran a solid race to finish sixth in last years renewal. Elliott always thought that the son of Martaline was a “natural” for Aintree and having had him for another twelve months could well be proved right. 

Having won the Grand National twice, with Earth Summit in 1998 and Bindaree four years later, Nigel Twiston-Davies certainly knows what is required, and his talented 8yo, Blaklion, has the ability to take his score to three. When, probably needing the race after a break, he put in an eye catching performance finishing second to current market leader, Vieux Lion Rouge in Haydock’s Grand National Trial over 3m4f on stamina sapping ground. He looked like making all until lack of full match fitness told close home, and post race vibes from his excellent trainer strongly suggested that placings would be reversed come the big day in April. Blaklion, as a Grade2 winner over hurdles, and a Grade1 victor over fences has that touch of class, and as one who can race up with the pace, (often the safest place to be at Aintree), has to be on the shortlist. 

Lucinda Russell’s 8yo, One For Arthur looked an out and out stayer when winning easily over 26f at Kelso last October, and confirmed his stamina credentials when winning The Warwick Classic,(previously The Warwick National), from nineteen other runners, over 3m5f on holding ground in January. He had previously shown that the big Aintree fences hold no fears for this good jumper, when getting to within 3L of Vieux Lion Rouge in the Betfred Beecher Chase over the course, running on with great resolution. Definitely worth considering, particularly if the ground comes up soft! 

The prize has come back to the village of Nicholashayne in Somerset twice previously, courtesy of Minnehoma in 1994, and Comply Or Die nine years ago, and the Pipe yard will be hoping for further celebrations on Saturday night. They certainly have a very progressive looking candidate in current market leader Vieux Lion Rouge. Starting as an unconsidered 66/1 outsider in last years renewal, he outran his odds to finish seventh, a highly commendable effort for a seven year old in the National. Winner of the Beecher Chase over the Aintree fences and the Grand National Trial at Haydock, underlines his progress this term, and with another year under his belt looks a worthy favourite. 

Astonishingly, Trevor “Blackpool Tower” Hemings, has won three of the last twelve renewals of the great race, and his recent purchase Vicente, will be attempting to join his three previous winners Hedgehunter(2005), Ballabrigs(2005), and Many Clouds(2015). The Paul Nicholls trained 8yo won last years Scottish National as a novice, and thanks to four subsequent lacklustre efforts, gets into Saturday’s contest on only one pound higher. These poor efforts can be ignored as Vicente is very much a “Spring Horse” who reserves his best for this time of year, and with his nice racing weight of 10st10lbs has to be considered a live outsider, to give Mr Hemings a fourth success, and indeed his trainer a second, (Neptune Collonges 2012). 

Brian Ellison’s 8yo, Definitely Red, has been popular in the ante post markets since his impressive win in The Grimthorpe Chase at Doncaster, (after the weights for the Grand National were published) and this strong stayer does look well handicapped with 10st12lbs on his back. Worth considering! 
Selection : Blaklion 

E.W. : Ucello Conti 

E.W. : Vicente 

John Gray

Racing Tips EBF & TBA Mares Novices Hurdle

Racing Tips EBF & TBA MaresEBF & TBA Mares “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle Finale (limited handicap) Grade 2 2m4 1/2f Newbury Saturday – Following the heady fare of last week’s Cheltenham Festival, Saturday’s feature, The Mares Novices Hurdle Finale feels like something of an anticlimax, but it is always a pretty competitive affair that takes a useful performer to succeed. Nicky Henderson with three victories in the past decade has been the most successful handler, followed by Oliver Sherwood, who won with Jaunty Flight in 2008 and followed up with Argento Luna a year later. It has been a pretty punter friendly heat, with the winner coming from the first three in the betting on nine of the last thirteen occasions, and indeed the “Jolly” herself has come home in front four times.

Henderson’s representative this year is the lightly raced 7yo Kings Theatre mare, Theatre Territory. A winner in the point to point field she failed to win any of her three bumpers, but made a promising start to her hurdles career when easily winning a Uttoxeter maiden by 9L at odds of 4/9 in December (2m Gd/Sft). She probably found things happening too quickly over Taunton’s fast circuit on good ground three weeks later when a keeping on third to Coillte Lass in a Class1 listed Novices Hurdle. Given a greater test of stamina she looked the most likely winner when upped to 20 1/2f at Newbury three weeks later but fell two out when moving easily into contention. She meets the runner up in that contest, Pearl Royale on 3lbs better terms at the weekend. She disappointed last time finishing 4th of five runners in a Sandown Grade2, eleven lengths behind Saturday’s opponent, Happy Diva who finished second. This was not the ideal warm up for Saturday’s contest, a race in which the majority of winners have been first past the post in their penultimate outing, but it is worth noting that all of Henderson’s three previous successes were exceptions to this particular stat, and indeed his 2007 winner Karello Bay was beaten out of sight at odds of 2/5 before winning at Newbury. Theatre Territory is obviously fairly highly thought of at Seven Barrows and if putting in a clean round of jumping must be involved at the business end on Saturday.

With two winners already on the board, Oliver Sherwood certainly knows what is required, and his 5yo Hitherjacques Lady looks interesting. By Robin Des Champs out of a Bob Back mare her future probably lies over fences but she has won her last two races by wide margins in very taking style. She hacked up by 12L (Wincanton 21 1/2f heavy) at the beginning of Febuary and eighteen days later, again won very easily from subsequent maiden winner Carspindle, (Lingfield 19 1/2f heavy). Obviously well suited by heavy ground, she showed her versatility by winning a good ground Cheltenham Bumper last April, where she had Saturday’s opponent Tara View back in 6th place and Mr Sherwood has every right to be hopeful of a third victory in the race.

The Philip Hobbs trained Copper Kay seemed to appreciate the step up from 16f to 21f at Warwick at the end of December where, with the race at her mercy, she idled in front after the last, and got going again all too late to pull back Ellen’s Way who prevailed by a head. However the third was 12L further back and the Hobbs mare proved conclusively that the trip suited. She had a nice confidence booster, winning a 19 1/2f Doncaster Novice twenty two days ago very easily, so this seven year old daughter of Kayf Tara has to be on the shortlist for Saturday.

Alan King’s 6yo Tara View, also a daughter of Kayf Tara, has won her last four races, a Bumper at Bangor-on-Dee, and three Hurdle races at Ludlow. She beat Saturday’s opponent, Happy Diva by a neck in the first of them, over an inadequate two miles and meets her on a pound better terms at the weekend. She proved well suited by the step up to 21 1/2f five weeks later, winning by 1/2L from another of Saturday’s opponents Wizard’s Sliabh, who reopposes on 5lbs better terms on Saturday. Alan King’s mare however took another step forward seven weeks later, when contesting her first handicap, she prevailed by 2 1/2L off a mark of 124 (21f Ludlow Soft) earning her a new rating of 132. She looks a very progressive mare and the only concern would be very soft ground. With a fairly benign forecast she looks the one to beat.

Selection : Tara View

E.W.          : Copper Kay

Betting Preview BetBright Best For Festival Betting Handicap Chase

betting-preview-betbright-best-for-festival-betting-handicap-chaseBetBright Best For Festival Betting Handicap Chase 2m5f (new) Cheltenham Sunday – With nine of the last ten winners returned at odds of 8/1 or less, and the “Jolly” hitting the back of the net on the last three occasions, the contest has certainly been punter friendly, and long may this happy state of affairs continue. Previous Cheltenham form has been a significant guide as seven of the last ten winners had won over the course, and indeed two of the last three winners of Decembers contest, The Caspian Caviar Gold Cup (also run over the new course) have doubled up here, Village Vic last year, and Double Ross two years ago.

With two wins and three places from nine runners over the past decade, the Twiston Davies yard knows what is required and have two left in at the time of writing, Bristol De Mai and Foxtail Hill. The latter needs a half dozen to come out to get a run, so the 6yo Bristol De Mai is the one to concentrate on.

twiston-davies

Nigel Twiston Davies’ in-form Gloucestershire yard could well throw up yet another winner according to the Oddsguru

He was well beaten on his reappearance in a two horse affair at Carlisle after a six month break, but showed the benefit, when running a very solid race in the 2m7 1/2f Rehersal Chase at Newcastle last time. Racing off Sunday’s mark of 154 he finished second to Otago Trail with Definitly Red, who was in receipt of 12lbs, 1 1/4L back in third. As the latter absolutely hosed up in the Roland Meyrick at Wetherby on Monday, the form looks rock solid. The drop back in trip should be an advantage, and as he showed that the undulations of Prestbury Park hold no fears when finishing second to Black Hercules in the JLT at the festival in March, he clearly has plenty going for him. A slight concern would be that no animal rated in the one fifties has won since Fondment won off 152 ten years ago, but a literal interpretation of the Rehersal Chase form does make him look well handicapped on 154.

The Paul Nicholls trained 7yo, As De Mee was over 14L behind Bristol De Mai in the JLT at the festival, and meets the Twiston-Davies contender on only 7lbs better terms here, but does look an improved animal this term. He won first time up, at Fontwell in October, and last time looked really good when winning a Class2 handicap over the National Fences at Aintree twenty nine days ago off a mark of 137. However in between, doubts were raised about his affinity for Cheltenham, when disappointing in the BetVictor Gold Cup over the course in November, and indeed he has only managed one placing, (over hurdles) from his four course appearances. Despite this it has to be said that he looked good at Aintree, and as the sole representative of the Ditcheat powerhouse, racing off a mark of 145, he has to be considered.

tnomas-crapper

Backers of Thomas Crapper could be feeling flush on Sunday

The 10yo Thomas Crapper is now reaching the veteran stage but does go well here and has won twice over Cheltenham’s smaller obstacles. Fitted with a tongue strap in the BetVictorGold Cup he ran well to finish 6th, 15L behind the winner, and has had a minor soft palate operation since, to aid his breathing. Trainer Dickin, reports him in fine fettle, and with just 10st in the plate, it would come as no surprise to see him involved at the business end.

With two wins and three places from his ten course appearances, the redoubtable winner of last year’s race, Village Vic, clearly feels very much at home on the Prestbury Park turf, and is likely to lead them all a merry dance again on Sunday. However he is 14lbs higher than last year, and failed by a neck to defy a 3lbs lower mark in the “BetVictor” in November, and could only manage a gallant third in the “Caspian Caviar” twenty two days ago off Sunday’s mark of 158. While it would be great to see this brave animal prevail, he has it all to do with 11st11bs on his back.

Nicky Henderson’s 8yo Vaniteux has mostly been campaigned at trips shorter than Sunday’s 20f but this winner of two of his six chases looks as if a step up in distance will suit.

nick-henderson

Will Nicky Henderson be all smiles with Vaniteux?

Having his first run for seven months he finished a respectable third behind Sire De Grugy and Quite By Chance over 2m1f at Ascot, and put in another solid performance when again finishing 3rd over 2m1/2f here at Cheltenham twenty two days ago. A winner of an Aintree Grade2 chase, this French bred has a touch of class about him, and quite stoutly bred, by Voix Du Nord out of a video rock mare, is likely to enjoy the step up in trip and even off his mark of 154, has to be on the shortlist.

Selection : Vaniteux

E.W.          Bristol De Mai

Racing Tips Welsh Grand National

racing-tips-welsh-grand-national
Coral Welsh Grand National Handicap Chase 3m5 1/2f Chepstow Tuesday
– First run in 1895, the race moved to Chepstow in 1949, where it was won by the ten year old Fighting Line, ridden by Dick Francis, the future Royal Jockey, (rode Devon Loch for the Queen Mother in the 1956 Grand National where he had that mysterious collapse on the finishing straight, with victory in his grasp) and legendary crime writer.

devon-loch-collapse

Devon Loch’s infamous 1956 collapse under Dick Francis

Surprisingly, for a contest that one tends to associate with the out and out staying type, the race has been won by plenty of classy performers, including four future Cheltenham Gold Cup heroes, Burrough Hill Lad (1983), Cool Ground (1990), Master Oats(1994), and Synchronised (2010).

Of trainers represented on Tuesday, Nigel Twiston-Davies, Paul Nicholls, and Jonjo O’Neill share the training honours with two victories apiece, but they are some way adrift of the great Martin Pipe who won five of the six renewals between 1988 and 1993. Unfortunately son David has yet to hit the back of the net but any runner from the Nicholashane yard is worth a second glance. Weight has been of huge significance with the giant Carvills Hill twenty five years ago, the last to carry top weight to victory, and indeed only three, the subsequent Gold Cup winner, Synchronised (11st6lbs) the Alan King trained Halcon Genelardais (11st3lbs) and Irish trained Notre Pere (11st) have managed to defy the eleven stone barrier in the last twenty years. A previous outing has been vital, as we have to go back more than thirty years to find a seasonal debutant in the winners enclosure. Age also has been very significant, with only three horses (including the 11yo Mountainous last year) in double figures, collecting, in the past three decades. Welsh Stables have struggled to keep the prize west of Offa’s Dyke, with the last winner to hail from the Principality being the David Jenkins trained Norther in 1965. Can any, of Curtis, Bowen, or Williams rectify this sad state of affairs next Tuesday?

Well the latter, represented by last year’s runner up, Firebird Flyer (pictured top) looks to have a serious chance. As a nine year old he is in the right age category, with 10st 8lbs on his back the weight looks ideal, and having had a pipe opener at Haydock on November 19th he has had the requisite outing, so he certainly goes there on Tuesday with plenty going for him. Indeed that highly encouraging Haydock performance, (first run for eight months) off Tuesdays mark of 141, strongly suggests that the Williams contender has improved this season, as his second in last years contest was off a mark of 133, and his subsequent win in the Midland Grand National was off 138. The softer the better for this strong stayer, so definitely one for the shortlist.

Colin Tizzard’s Hennessy Gold Cup winner, Native River, looked an improved animal at Newbury, but with top weight here has a huge task in front of him, as no Hennessy winner has won this since Playschool in 1987. Some pretty talented animals, who have run well at Newbury, such as the subsequent Grand National winner, Hedgehunter, who finished a good 4th in the 2004 Hennessy, failed to make any impression in the Chepstow marathon, with only 10st2lbs on his back. Very soft ground would also be a negative for the Tizzard 6yo, but as runner up in the 4m National Hunt Chase the trip should hold no fears.

Runner up at Newbury, Carole’s Destrier, meets the winner on 3lbs better terms for the 1/2L he was beaten, and Neil Mulholland’s 8yo certainly wasn’t stopping at the end of that gruelling handicap. Unfancied in the market, it was his first run for seven months, so plenty of improvement can be expected. He probably wouldn’t be suited by very soft ground but if Chepstow remains dry is worth considering.

Whatever the ground is like on Tuesday, the Philip Hobbs trained Onenightinvienna will cope, and this 7yo demonstrated his wellbeing with a win in a Carlisle conditions event at the beginning of November.

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Philipp Hobbs’ will fancy his chances with the 7yo Onenightinvienna

A winner of a Class2 3m event over hurdles, he was rated 144 in that discipline, but on breeding he was always going to be a staying chaser. He ran in the Grand National in April, coming down at Beechers on the second circuit, having previously finished 5th over an inadequate 3m at Ascot in Febuary. Racing on Tuesday off a mark of 146 giving him a racing weight of 10st13lbs this progressive young chaser doesn’t look badly treated and could easily give Philip a second Welsh National.

The 8yo Unioniste probably represents Paul Nicholls best chance of bagging a third win in the contest, as racing off a mark of 145, he is fully 13lbs lower than where he started last years campaign. A previous winner at Grade3 and Class1 level, he needed his first two runs in October and November, and should now strip fit and ready to run. This strong stayer, a winner of seven chases, has won three times on heavy ground, so if the rain arrives, could find conditions ideal, and it will come as no surprise to see him in contention jumping the last on Tuesday.

Selection:    Firebird Flyer

E.W.    :    Onenightinvienna