Here’s my preview of Saturday’s big race at Chepstow. For regular previews and additional tips from Will and the rest of the JPFestival.com team, please join JPFestival.com as a Free or Community Member – learn more about our Membership options.
2.50 – (3m5f110y) Coral Welsh Grand National Handicap Chase (Grade 3) (Class 1) (4yo+): An insanely competitive renewal with a huge amount of plausible winners here in Chepstow’s rescheduled big race of the year. The 9lbs penalty for Chase The Spud is slightly off putting but there isn’t anything else to dislike about his chances here and he’s worth backing to take the biggest prize of Fergal O’Brien’s blossoming career. The ground here is going to out the H in heavy but ‘Spud’s record on testing surfaces is very solid, with his form figures over three miles-plus on soft or heavy reading 1P2P1327511.
The last two of those performances are his two best efforts, with the first one of those coming when he took the Midlands National at Uttoxeter when he got the better of Mystree in the Midlands National (4 and a quarter miles, Uttoxeter) and then when he won on his seasonal reappearance in some of the heaviest ground seen this season at Haydock in a 3 mile handicap chase that has been traditionally strong. Always prominent, he stayed on relentlessly to put six lengths between himself and Robinsfirth, who would then go onto win well at Cheltenham next time out. That suggests that he’s worth the 9lbs rise here today and apart from that there’s precious little to fault.
Mystree was second to Chase The Spud in the Midlands National when last seen, being beaten one and a half lengths when giving weight; Before that he’d turned the Eider Chase into a war of attrition that only he could win, going away to prevail by four lengths in testing Newcastle ground that rode softer than the description that day. He now comes here fresh – a big bonus as he’s won two of his four starts for this yard with a decent gap between them all – and now getting nearly a stone from his old rival. Indeed, he beat Chase The Spud by nearly four lengths over 3m4f at Haydock (albeit getting a lot of weight) and appears a perfect Welsh National type.
Trevor Hemmings’s record in Nationals – buy tickets for Aintree Grand National meeting – is the stuff of legend and he has two strong chances in Vicente and Vintage Clouds and whilst it’s tough to pick between the pair, Vicente is just preferred. Vicente’s Scottish National win is some of the best form in this race (and deeply impressive given that he retained it) whilst his brilliant second on reappearance at Cheltenham showed that soft ground was not going to be an issue for him, so it’s hard to find too much fault with him. Indeed, considering he’s 151 today, you could say that he’s actually very well handicapped still given that he took the Scottish National off 146.
Vintage Clouds is interesting too. He was seventh in the Scottish National that Vicente won but that’s his worst effort of the past 12 months and several of his other long distance efforts are extremely taking. He was by no means beaten when falling in both the Peter Marsh and Ultima, and in between them he might have been an 18 length third in a Grand National trial, he was third to Vieux Lion Rouge and Blaklion, one of the best races of its type over the last year. He was long overdue to win a race, but even then his 18 length demolition job at Aintree on his return was brilliant and he ran into a graded horse next time in the shape of Clan Des Obeaux at Haydock, finishing a respectable second on what was very testing ground. This trip is a slight worry, but he ought to go very well apart from that and is at least proven on an extreme surface.
Beware The Bear’s defeat of Bishops Road in the Rehearsal Chase was a remarkable effort considering the fact Sean Bowen ‘s sadly slipped to the horse’s hind, combined with what was a very shoddy round of jumping for the level. It is highly unlikely that he is going to get away with either today, but he has serious untapped potential as a stayer and deserves serious respect here. This race has long looked ideal for Rock The Kasbah, a dour winner of the Toteexacta Handicap Chase on his return here, and he is hard to pass aside. He’s very unexposed going this far and has plenty of form on soft, although little on heavy.
Wild Wild West goes on this ground so has to be considered along with Final Nudge given he was just beaten in the Badger Ales on his return.
Bishops Road, Pobbles Bay, Raz De Maree and Milansbar can all go well.
1 pt each/way Mystree (8/1 generally)
1 pt each/way Chase The Spud (10/1 generally)
1 pt each/way, 1 pt each/way Vicente (20/1 generally)