Alex Hammond: Three is the magic number

  • By: Alex Hammond
  • Last Updated: January 5 2013, 8:04 GMT

Alex Hammond looks at the weekend's action and can't see past Teaforthree in the Welsh National at Chepstow.

Teaforthree: Gets Alex's vote

The Coral Welsh National takes place on Saturday after the original fixture was abandoned due to waterlogging.

Conditions are set to be heavy and this will be a real war of attrition over three miles and five and a half furlongs on testing ground.

When I previewed this race originally I really fancied Teaforthree and that's still the case despite his relatively short price. He won the four-miler at the Cheltenham festival and has been geared towards this race this season.

He won his novice chase at this track on heavy ground so hopefully the conditions shouldn't phase him. If he does win this for Rebecca Curtis he would become the first Welsh-trained horse to win the Welsh National since 1965.

AP McCoy is on board, but luckily for him the weights aren't as low as they could have been before so he won't have to waste to ride him.

What a result it would be for Victor Dartnall if his Giles Cross could finally get his head in front in this race. He has finished second for the past two seasons and it would be a boost for the stable if he could win. The yard had been forced to shut down after an outbreak of equine herpes which claimed the lives of several horses but they are back in business now and need some good luck.

The horse certainly won't mind a slog in this ground and he should run well once again.

I spoke to Victor on Sky Sports News on Friday and he told me he was very happy with the horse. The only note of caution was that as the horse hadn't run since April you couldn't be confident, but he sounded hopeful.

One thing he did tell me is that he fancies the chances of Seebright in the bumper at Chepstow, so don't say you weren't told!

Paul Nicholls has Michel le Bon in the contest. He ran an encouraging race in the Badger Ales at Wincanton last time out but he is unproven on ground like this. He has only had four starts over fences and his trainer has said in the past he wouldn't mind soft ground, but this is likely to be extremely testing.

Viking Blond is also well fancied for Nigel Twiston-Davies. He has put up a couple of encouraging efforts the last twice and could still be a progressive staying chaser at the age of eight and carries a nice racing weight.

Sona Sasta is one of two in this for David Pipe. He only has 10 stone and then his amateur jockey takes a further 7lb off, so he will think he's running loose. Conditions suit him and he comes here having won a handicap chase in similar conditions over three miles at this track last time out.

Master Overseer is Pipe's other runner and he has plenty in his favour too. The ground can't be testing enough and the trip can't be far enough, perfect ingredients for this contest!

Alfie Spinner and Universal Soldier are both priced at around the 10/1 mark. Be aware the former has Sandown's 3.40 as his first preference. Universal Soldier is also entered in that Sandown contest, but this is his first option. Charlie Longsdon is really making a name for himself amongst the training ranks and this horse can go well for the stable too. He has blinkers on for the first time just to help him travel and conditions are ideal too. He could run into a place and is an each way price.

Soll could also be one for each-way punters. Jo Hughes trains this horse and she has her team in decent form. This horse should be sharper for his reappearance run in the Hennessy where he finished eighth behind Bobs Worth. That was his first run for the trainer having previously been with Willie Mullins, for whom he showed decent promise.

He can't be written off and at around 12/1 appeals slightly to finish in the frame.

I'm afraid that time hasn't dimmed my enthusiasm for Teaforthree and he looks tailor-made for this type of race. I think he can fly the flag for Wales at 3/1 with Sky Bet.

Also at Chepstow the Finale Juvenile Hurdle looks a competitive contest and should give us some more clues for the Triumph Hurdle.

Caid Du Berlais will be popular has he makes his debut for Paul Nicholls. The horse was formerly trained in France by Robert Collet for whom he won a three-year-olds' hurdle on heavy ground last August. He has good form at Auteuil too and must have strong claims.

John Ferguson saddles Ruacana who won on hurdles debut at Catterick. This ground would have to be of concern and although he ran well on heavy on the flat, this will be harder work.

Swnymor represents Tim Vaughan and is another who is one from one over hurdles having won at Newbury on his debut for the stable. I think this could be a good opportunity for Paul Nicholls to add this race to his CV and I'm with Caid Du Berlais.

Before I take a look at the racing from Sandown, another horse I fancy on Saturday is Cedre Bleu in the 2.10, the two-and-a-half-mile handicap chase. He will suit going left-handed and looks capable of winning a decent prize. This is ground he enjoys and he has been helped by the application of cheekpieces.

Onto Sandown then and the Grade One Tolworth Hurdle, which is for novices over an extended two miles. This is a fascinating contest and Nicky Henderson, who has been in great form, has two of the seven runners.

Barry Geraghty has chosen Royal Boy over Golden Hoof (Andrew Tinkler) on the basis that he will probably handle the ground better.

Royal Boy was an expensive purchase in May 2011 (150,000 Euros) having won a point-to-point in Ireland. He didn't run for Henderson until December, but it was an encouraging performance which saw him finish second to one of his rivals in this Melodic Rendezvous. I would fancy him to reverse those placings now he has a run under his belt.

Poet is another interesting runner. He is trained by Clive Cox for his landlord John Francome and won on hurdles debut at Newbury last month. He was very smart on the flat having won seven races including two at Group Three level.

He steps up from maiden company here, but shouldn't be underestimated. Pendra is another horse stepping up significantly in grade having won a bumper, maiden hurdle and a novice hurdle, his last two starts coming at Plumpton. So he comes here unbeaten and his trainer Charlie Longsdon thinks he could fare better in better company.

He's potentially smart and is another who can run well for his in-form stable. I'm going to take a chance that Poet can continue his progression over hurdles and he will enjoy conditions.

At Wincanton I can't let Big Fella Thanks run without supporting him in their 2m 5f handicap chase (2.40). I fancied him for the Becher Chase and he ran with credit to finish third to Hello Bud. He carried 15lb more than the winner there and I hope he can gain compensation in this contest for Tom George and Paddy Brennan.

Selections:

Caid du Berlais in the Finale Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow

Teaforthree in the Welsh National at Chepstow @ 3/1 with Sky Bet

Cedre Bleu in the 2.10 at Chepstow

Seebright in the Chepstow bumper

Poet in the Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown

Big Fella Thanks in the 2m5f Handicap Chase at Wincanton


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