Alex Hammond looks ahead to the weekend's big racing

Alex Hammond Racing Blog & Tips: Welsh National preview

Oliver Sherwood's Dominateur is the horse to be with in Saturday's Coral Welsh Grand National at Chepstow, according to Alex Hammond.

Happy New Year

Happy New Year, I think!

Here we are into 2021 with some hope on the horizon that things are going to get better sooner rather than later. Sadly, there is no end in sight to the lack of spectators at racecourses, which means you’re stuck with me and the Sky Sports Racing crew bringing you plenty of action over the coming weeks and months. I mentioned in my last blog that it’s always lovely to hear from you and I hope you’ll continue to keep in touch with tweets and emails when we are on air.

This weekend is looking considerably better than originally scheduled with the rearranged Coral Welsh Grand National taking centre stage. It was abandoned just after Christmas thanks to the delights of Storm Bella giving the Welsh venue a soaking. This time round the track executive are trying to mitigate the effects of the weather and the whole course at Chepstow has been covered with fleece to protect it from the frost that is set to bite this week. Hopefully they will be rewarded for all that hard work with a superb days racing on Saturday.

What's the best bet in the Welsh National?

I’ll be in situ at Chepstow and the big race is stacking up to be its usual crackerjack of a race. This 3m6½f isn’t for the faint hearted, and in the prevailing conditions will be its usual tough test.

When I wrote about the race in my last column, I was keen on a couple of horses away from the short priced favourite Secret Reprieve. Evan Williams’ horse is understandably popular after his win in the Trial last time out and is 8lbs ‘well in’ after it was decided the original weights would stand.

So a 4lb penalty for that recent course win sneaks him in at the bottom of the weights and makes him an attractive proposition. He’s 7/2 favourite with Sky Bet and for me, that makes him less attractive.

Sky Bet are paying five places, so I’m going to stick with my original plan and pick a couple at bigger prices and with extra time to digest the form, one of my duo has just edged into the lead.

Trucker’s Lodge is 16lbs higher in the weights than when runner-up in this 12 months ago, but I’m not ruling him out despite that hefty rise, which was largely the result of winning the Midlands National.

He is a 10/1 shot and makes it onto my shortlist.

However, the horse that has edged ahead in my estimation is Dominateur who is two points bigger at 12/1.

His trainer Oliver Sherwood won the Sussex National on Sunday and I think this lad is set to come into his own over extreme distances. He’s only eight years old and is relatively lightly raced and strikes me as a smart staying chaser in the making.

He certainly comes alive at Chepstow in these type of conditions and will be better suited by this than what he had at Sandown on his seasonal reappearance in a decent, small-field, Intermediate Chase.

He doesn’t look badly handicapped either and whilst he’s getting a bit shorter in the market all the time, I still think he offers each-way value.

You can make a case for several of the runners if you try hard enough, but I’m happy to have those two against the field and hope they give us something to cheer about.

Dominateur in action

Who else is on the weekend shortlist?

The Grade 1 Coral Finale Juvenile Hurdle had originally cut up with the news that Gary Moore wasn’t entirely happy with his latest star juvenile hurdler Nassalam prior to its scheduled date on December 27.

However, it seems to be all systems go again now, which is great news for racing fans. He looks potentially top class having won both his UK starts at Fontwell and whilst he doesn’t look the most straightforward ride, that didn’t stop Goshen or last year’s winner of this race, Allmankind.

He’s 5/4 favourite to continue his winning streak on Saturday and sometimes a short price can look like value and I think this is one of those occasions.

There must be some doubt around the participation of the Gordon Elliott-trained horses that hold an entry for this race as travel from Ireland to Britain was banned over Christmas due to Covid and it’s not clear if those restrictions will be lifted.

So if neither Quilixios or Duffle Coat run then Nassalam won’t be a 5/4 shot. It’s by no means a one horse race if they don’t come over, though, and I’m a fan of Adagio who has done well for David Pipe since coming over from France.

Speaking of French recruits, Paul Nicholls looks set to unleash Houx Gris for the stable in this Grade 1, which shows the respect he holds him in if he makes his British debut at this level.

Elham Valley won’t mind conditions either having won on heavy ground at Sandown on his hurdle debut on his first start for Fergal O’Brien. All in all it is building up to be an intriguing contest and I can’t wait to see how it unfolds.

Elsewhere on the card, I hope Pozo Emery is still on course for the opening maiden hurdle. When I had a good look at the card over Christmas Paul Nicholls’ horse came out on top in this race.

Likewise Farrants Way in the 2m7½f handicap hurdle. I think the Venetia Williams trained seven-year-old can go well.

There’s a novices’ limited handicap chase over the same trip later in the afternoon where in-form Evan Williams has a good chance of adding to his impressive recent tally with Supreme Escape if this recent course winner turns up on Saturday.

So plenty to get stuck into and hopefully you’ll join me for a quality days racing.

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