For the full version of this article – JOIN US for access to the Members’ Area.
On the 27th of December, my true love gave to me…. Isn’t a line you hear said very often but for Colin Tizzard is could well be that he gets a big stocking filler in the shape of the Welsh National. If the handicapper is to believed, then he’s got every chance of following his game Hennessy win. Thanks to being topweight, and BHA rules no longer allowing penalties to lumber horses with any more than the allotted topweight, then he’s off the same mark as his Hennessy win.
The nature of his success that day, jumping, travelling and continually finding more whilst his contemporaries faded away, was that of a horse who should be aimed at the Gold Cup long term – and he may well be too – but this test is very different to the one he faced at Newbury, or indeed at Aintree or Cheltenham last year.
The ground here will be the most different thing, alongside the fact that he is now top weight in the handicap. Despite a dry winter by most standards, the ground is expected to be as testing as ever here and it’s worth nothing that all of Native River’s best efforts have come on good ground, especially since a disappointing effort in the Towton on heavy ground when he was beaten 21 lengths. Plus, at 5/1, he’s priced as if he’s surely going to produce what would eb a career best and be the first horse since Carvills Hill to win off topweight.
The quality of this contest has been going up a lot in recent years – a trend with major handicaps – and recent winners have had a youthful quality to them too, as half of the past dozen heroes aged either six or seven.
Vyta Du Roc was a slight disappointment in the Hennessy when only six, having threated to get involved but never truly landed a blow. However it could well be that the Scottish National fifth has needed softer ground, and a longer trip, or both to show his very best and he will get both here off the same mark of 143. He still retains significant potential off this mark based on his novice chase form and he’s already completed a National, albeit the Scottish. His come from behind style could make things a little tricky but it’s been done before in the Welsh National and he has to be respected; He’s worth chancing at double the price of his Hennessy sixth.
The prices have gone about Onenightinvienna, who’s now second favourite, but that price is deserved. Phillip Hobbs’s second season chaser was always going to be best over the bigger fences and made a very promising start to life when winning on his chasing debut at Exeter. That took place on a heavy surface but he handed it with aplomb – as he does all surfaces – and he improved on that under a winning penalty next time out when he was second only to Blaklion, giving 5lbs to the future RSA winner.
From that race third Fletchers Flyer won a big staying handicap at Punchestown and the fourth Vicente landed the Scottish Grand National at Ayr (and reopposes here today). On his return at Carlisle, Onenightinvienna gave nearly a stone and a beating to Seldom Inn, a previous winner who was going well when falling at Newcastle next time out. He’s rated 146 now, the same mark that Vicente won the Scottish National off whilst Blaklion is now rated 154, and he appears well handicapped.
The next horse on the shortlist is Warrantor, who has been hit and miss over fences since winning a Beginners’ Chase at Lingfield, but he responded really well to the test presented by a long-distance marathon when second in a valuable and well contested handicap at Cheltenham to Viconte Du Noyer (Shotgun Paddy, a regular in these events, was seventh). That was a fine run in reparation for this and going further ought to suit him yet further still so if he makes it into the final field he’ll take some beating.
Carole’s Destrier, the London Marathon winner of last year, was second in the Hennessy and he must be given a serious chance of being involved at the business end, as does last year’s second Firebird Flyer, who ran into a rapidly progressive horse when making his return at Haydock. Mountainous is a dual winner of this contest, having beaten Firebird Flyer last year, and he could well go shorter than his current price even after being pulled up twice this season. Last Christmas Viva Steve was second to The Last Samuri and he made a fine start to this campaign when he was a good winner at Ayr, so he needs watching, whilst Irish Grand National sixth Bale Des Ilses catches the eye for Katie Walsh.
Earlier on the card, the Future Champions Hurdle (2.00) brings us some very promising talent. Defi Du Seuil, the shorter priced British horse for the Triumph, has won his two starts at Cheltenham in fine style, taking his UK debut on the bridles from a useful rival in second when Dino Velvet (who was beaten) had fallen at the last), and then beating a previous winner in the shape of Coeur De Lion, who himself had a subsequent winner behind on his debut.
He ought to be upto going close, and can beat Dino Velvet once again. It’s likely that he’s going to be favourite – he’s nearly favourite for the Triumph – but this is no gimme.
Dolos, an impressive winner over course and distance in October, was third in the Prix Cambaceres behind two very talented rivals and will provide a link between the French and English juveniles in form terms.
However the horse of interest here is Evening Hush, an 80 rated flat stayer who has made a lightening start to life over hurdles. She won a decent juvenile hurdle at Exeter on her debut when roving far too strong for the rest, including coming 10 lengths clear of a subsequent winner. She stepped up a huge amount on that performance when going to Aintree and taking a apart a fillies Listed Hurdle by an extraordinary 21 lengths.
Castafiore was second, beaten a mile that day, whilst she put 36 more lengths on Litterate Ci between Exeter and then. The assessors have that performance rated 144, which has her top of the pile when adjusting for her fillies’ allowance, but she had room for more that day. The ground ought not to be a problem, given that she won by nine lengths on soft to heavy, and she can take the beating.
Find out more about our Membership options – we’re currently offering first month FREE! (offer ends 31 December)
2.00 Chepstow – 1 pt win Evening Hush
2.40 Chepstow – 1 pt each/way Onenightinvienna (10/1 Coral, Paddy Power)
2.40 Chepstow – 1 pt each/way Vyta Du Roc (20/1 Paddy Power)
You catch more of Will on our Cheltenham Festival 2017 Preview Show.
This Christmas could well have bought plenty of port for Nicky Henderson and the team at Seven Barrows – and well deserved it would be too – but there are presents to win at Kempton and the 32 Red Wayward Lad Novices’ Chase (1.45) could be high on the agenda. Altior, the current Arkle favourite, is expected to run here after his sensational success in the Henry VII at Sandown, when he had Marracudja 22 lengths behind when posting a time that was, according to Timeform’s Simon Rowlands, roughly 5 lengths quicker than Ar Mad had in the same race (when forging away from his rivals) 12 months earlier, roughly 10 lengths quicker than Un de Sceaux did later on the same card, and roughly 9 lengths quicker than Sprinter Sacre had done when beating Un de Sceaux by 15 lengths in his swansong on a sounder surface in April. If he runs in the Desert Orchid, (more later), he would take the beating. Some Plan was going well in a Grade 1 won by Le Preizen when he fell and he needs respect for Henry De Bromhead, having made a solids start to his chasing career so far. If Buveur D’Air was to make his second chasing start here, even with his stablemate involved, he would need serious respecting. Stephanie Frances has won plenty for the Skeltons and is on a roll. If the race cuts up she could be second or third.
If Altior was to run in the 32 Red Desert Orchid, then he would be the bet, although that seems unlikely at this moment in time. That said, 6/1 could be worth chancing for those interested at the time of reading. Of those that look more set to run, Sire De Grugy has a big chance of taking this prize after a fine run in the Tingle Creek, although he will have a task on his hands to give 10lbs to Special Tiara. Henry De Bromhead nine year old has always needed his first run badly and with better ground than he had at Cheltenham he ought to take the beating here. The market has cottoned on though, this may be a no bet race.
Garde La Victoire is 4lbs better off with Sir Valentino for his short head defeat in the Haldon Gold Cup but Sir Valentino’s well beaten fifth in the Tingle Creek suggests he could struggle here. Meanwhile, Vaniteux has been beaten twice off 154 in handicaps and has a little to prove off the back of those efforts. Marracudja could struggle here if he swerves the novice chase and Savello was well behind Speical Tiara when the two last met in November and Ultragold could find this a lot more difficult than the handicaps he’s been contesting.
If Rich and Susannah Ricci don’t have the Boxing Day they hope for, it will be a surprise if Douvan can’t make up for things in the Paddy Power Cashcard Chase (1.45). The Arkle winner was devastating on his return in the Hilly Way and assuming even a repeat here, will stand tall over his rivals, led by Sizing John (who is yet to beat him in several attempts, or get close than seven lengths over fences), whilst Simply Ned should be about the places but still struggle to get within hailing distance on all Irish evidence. This trip should be too short for Black Hercules and Smashing, Mozotolov was beaten in the Hilly Way when he fell, and Aliser D’Irelande is bottom rated.
The Paddy Power Chase (3.00) is trickier than untangling the Christmas Lights but it could pay to look towards the top of the market here. There are more JP McManus runners here than there will be people at the Boxing Day Sales and of his, Gallant Oscar catches the eye. He has been eyecatching on many occasions but the talent is there to rewards followers and he was just getting into the thick of things last year when he unseated two out. He was travelling like a dream in the Grand National too when he came down, and that is a pressing worry, but his return over hurdles was that of a horse who still has serious winning potential (especially as it was over 2m4f) and it’s worth remembering how impressive he was at the Punchestown Festival the last time he stayed up over 3 miles. He might be worth backing for the
Gordon Elliott has already taken the Troytown this year and he nearly took this race last year with Ucello Conti, who has since continued to run extremely well in all manner of handicap races. He was a fine sixth in the Grand National when he failed to stay and has since finished an excellent fourth in the Becher Chase; All ground comes alike to him and he’s just 1lb higher than when finishing third in the Thyestes earlier in the year.
3.00 Leopardstown – 1 pt each/way Gallant Oscar (12/1 general)
3.00 Leopardstown – 1 pt each/way Ucello Conti (12/1 Skybet)
1 pt each/way Gallant Oscar, 2017 Grand National (33/1 general)
To read Will’s insight’s at the weekend’s and for big race meetings join our Community. We’re offering first month free until 31 December then it’s just £9 per month – JOIN US.