Giles can spoil Tea party
It was a shame last week's Coral Welsh National got abandoned, but officials acted quickly to make sure we still got a chance to see this season's historic race as it's been moved to this Saturday (5th Jan) - fingers crossed it's second time lucky with the weather.
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That now makes what is generally just an average Saturday of action into something to really look forward to and the bookmakers must be thankful that one of the big betting races of the year is still set to go ahead.
During my riding days I was lucky enough to ride the winner of the Welsh National once, back in 1993 on the dour stayer Riverside Boy. We only had 10-0 to carry that day, which obviously helped over the 3m5f trip and in the heavy ground, but with the current Gold Cup winner, Cool Ground, also in the line-up there was some stern opposition.
With my horse finishing runner-up the year before off an 8lb higher mark, and with our light weight, then punters soon latched on my horse, who was eventually sent off the 6/4 favourite over Cool Ground.
With his stamina assured we decided to make it a true test from the front as soon as the tape went up, and I never really saw another horse in the race after we eventually pulled clear down the long Chepstow straight to take the prize by 20 lengths from Fiddlers Pike, with the Gold Cup winner Cool Ground a further 8 lengths back in third - That gave the Pipe stable their fifth Welsh National win in six years, but surprisingly that was also their last winner in this race!
Anyway, enough reminiscing and onto this year's renewal. If you like your trends then you might know that we've only seen one winning favourite in the last 10 runnings, so this year's likely jolly, Teaforthree, will have that negative stat to overcome.
Rebecca Curtis' charge has been heavily backed since his decent sixth in the Hennessy Gold Cup at the start of December, and with the second in that race, Tidal Bay, since franking the form by winning the Lexus Chase then everything points to a big run. He's also 2lb lower here, plus will love this trip, having won the 4m race at the Cheltenham Festival last season, while he's also won on heavy ground at Chepstow too in the past - a worthy favourite.
Next best in the betting at this stage is Nigel Twiston-Davies' Viking Blond, who was last seen running an excellent third at Cheltenham back in November. He's up 2lbs for that run, but the yard has given him a nice little break with this race in mind, while with Bindaree and Earth Summit two previous winners of this race for the stable then it's safe to say they know how to get one ready for this gruelling contest. He was, however, pulled up in the race 12 months ago in what will be similar conditions, but on a plus has won over fences at Chepstow in the past, and if you look at the key trends below he does also have plenty in his favour.
The Paul Nicholls team, who won this race back-to-back in 2004 and 2005, will be pinning their hopes on the lightly-raced Michael Le Bon. A second at Wincanton to The Package back in November would have blown a few cobs webs away and with just 4 chase runs to his name then should have plenty more improvement to come too. He's two-from-two on soft ground over hurdles, including one victory here at the Welsh track, so that's another plus. At 10 years-old some might feel he's a bit long in tooth looking at the trends (all of the last 10 winners were aged 9 or younger), but don't forget that this race would normally have been run at the end of December when all of these horses would have actually been a year younger (all horses age a year on Jan 1st).
I've already mentioned the last time the Pipe's won this race I was riding the horse, but they look to have a very good chance of ending that barren spell with Sona Sasta, who is still entered at this stage. He was a winner on heavy ground here at the track in early December and a 4lb penalty for that victory doesn't look too harsh to me.
It's good to see the Victor Dartnall horses back on the track after the yard suffered from a bout of equine herpes recently, and although all of the above mentioned horses are respected I'd rather be having an each-way play of their Giles Cross. This horse absolutely loves these conditions and has been runner-up in this race for the last two years. Yes, he's 8lb higher this year and has not been out since April, but he's gone well fresh in the past, while the first two pulled well clear of the third 12 months ago, so I think he can defy this higher rating and still run a huge race - with the bookies sure to be offering enhanced places on the race too then it could pay to shop around to get 5, or even 6, places.
Happy New Year!
10 Year Coral Welsh National Trends
10/10 - Had raced within the last 7 weeks
10/10 - Won over at least 3m previously (fences)
10/10 - Won by a horse aged 9 or younger
10/10 - Won between 1-5 chase races previously
9/10 - Placed in the top 4 in their latest race
8/10 - Won by a horse aged 8 or younger
8/10 - Carried 11-0 or less
7/10 - Won just 2 or 3 times previously over fences
7/10 - Carried 10-8 or less in weight
6/10 - 10/1 or shorter in the betting
6/10 - Won over fences at Chepstow previously
5/10 - Favourites unplaced
5/10 - Won by a French bred horse
4/10 - Won their last race
4/10 - Won by an Irish bred horse
4/10 - Raced in the Welsh National previously
3/10 - Raced at Chepstow last time out
2/10 - Trained by Paul Nicholls
2/10 - Trained by Jonjo O'Neill
1/10 - Favourites
The average winning SP in the last 10 runnings is 10/1