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Welsh National preview

It's gonna be mighty wet again tomorrow at Chepstow, seems pretty normal for this time of year. Taking the reins to preview the time-honoured Welsh National is another blog debutant, Adam Webb, @adamwebb121. You can also read more of his work on his blog.


Welsh National

Chepstow’s showpiece of the entire year takes place tomorrow at 2:35 with the gruelling Coral Welsh National over three miles five furlongs. Previous winners of this race have gone on to even greater successes including the Cheltenham Gold Cup with the likes of Cool Ground, Master Oats and more recently Synchronised all taking this race before going on to land the blue riband of steeplechasing. This race has also shown potential clues towards the Grand National itself with Earth Summit doing the double in the 1997/98 season whilst Silver Birch took this in 2004 before going on to Aintree glory in 2007.

This year’s race looks a competitive renewal especially with the top class Tidal Bay lining up which has kept the weights down for some potential improvers plus this will have appealed to trainers of horses with a higher handicap rating to take their chances.

Heading the market are Well Refreshed and Goonyella with most bookmakers unable to split them. Well Refreshed has looked an ideal type for this race when bolting up in the Sussex National at Plumpton by 28 lengths before improving from that effort to take the Grand National Trial at Haydock but not before demolishing the final fence. His last run of the season in the Bet365 Gold Cup can be ignored. His comeback at Cheltenham was to blow the cobwebs off before an excellent run last time out when third at Sandown on ground conditions that would have been quick enough for him. Tomorrow’s conditions will suit him perfectly but the main concern for Gary Moore’s stayer is whether his jumping will stand the test.

Goonyella is a rare Irish representative but the trainer and jockey teamed up with Notre Pere back in 2008 so they know what type of horse is needed. He began last season as a hunter chaser which included form with top Irish hunters Salsify and Tammy’s Hill at Leopardstown back in February. He was well fancied for the Irish National but his saddle slipped early on however he confirmed his promise as a future staying handicap chaser when winning the 3m6f handicap at the Punchestown festival beating Vesper Bell. He ran an excellent trial for this when sixth behind Cootamundra in the Troytown on ground quicker than ideal. He has a leading chance but my worry is whether he has enough experience for a six year old.

Emma Lavelle has had a much better season with her horses being in really good form. Her representative is the admirable Highland Lodge who has some strong handicap form this season with his run in the Hennessy behind Triolo D’Alene looking full of promise considering the ground was lively enough plus the pace he set up front was strong. Back on his favoured soft ground over this trip, he must go very close. Jonjo O’Neill had two leading chances however Alfie Sherrin hasn’t been declared but he still has a live chance with Merry King who caught the eye as well in the Hennessy when staying on stoutly from the back of the field to finish fifth. Like Goonyella, the concern would be whether he has enough experience for a race as demanding as this.

Paul Nicholls has two runners but the most interesting is top weight Tidal Bay. The last top weight to win the Welsh National was the sensational Carvill’s Hill back in 1991 and this horse can follow in his footsteps. His return to action this season was the perfect pipe-opener with a second success in the Bet365 Hurdle at Wetherby where he sprinted to beat Medinas before looking one pace in the questionable Betfair Chase behind Cue Card. Although he is the only horse carrying over eleven stone tomorrow, Daryl Jacob rode this horse to victory in similar conditions in the 2012 Bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown and the plan would be to use the same tactics of picking off his rivals one by one. Since going to Nicholls, he has been a rejuvenated character and even though he is in the veteran stage of his career, it would not be a huge surprise if he could win this.

Nicholls' other contender is Hawkes Point who looks to be wanting a marathon test and his fourth over the course last time out behind De La Bech will have put him spot on for this however whether he is capable of taking this is debatable. Mountainous was third in the same race and loves this type of ground and should have some improvement over the longer trip.

Last year’s runner-up Teaforthree returns after his heroic effort in both this and the Grand National where he ran a fine race when third behind Aurora’s Encore. This is a tough ask on his return plus he has looked to need his first run over the last few seasons but he could sneak into a place if one or two run below expectations. Hey Big Spender has looked back to his old self this season with two excellent runs especially last time out when winning the Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle. He runs here with a four pound penalty and would have place claims. Vintage Star was second that day but looked a useful novice last season before being overfaced in the RSA Chase. He would need to jump better to figure in this.

Goulanes heads the David Pipe trio but has to overcome a hugely disappointing effort at Cheltenham on his return to action. First time blinkers tomorrow are a positive to improve the horse but his lack of experience over fences would be the issue. Amigo has shown nothing lately to merit any attention however his third entry Ace High is the most interesting of the bigger priced horses. He changed trainers after his first run at Cheltenham where he was beaten 90 lengths by Balthazar King from Victor Dartnall to David Pipe. After that, his last run at Haydock showed plenty of promise when carrying top weight behind Nuts N Bolts. As a front runner, he can keep out of trouble plus he travels strongly through his races which is key in a race like this.

The form also ties in with another runner in Red Rocco who also has a big each way chance and both look overpriced.

To conclude, TIDAL BAY is the one to beat even with top weight and can show his younger rivals how to do it with Highland Lodge, Ace High and Red Rocco following him home.


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