Former Talksport man Charlie McCann marks your card with eight to follow on Saturday at Chepstow, Newbury and Leopardstown. View selections below
The Coral Welsh National is one of the big betting races of the Xmas period and it looks a quality renewal with veteran Tidal Bay heading the weights. Well Refreshed must go close if his jumping holds up for Gary Moore, Irish raider Goonyella represents the same connections who won the corresponding race back in 2008 but the vote goes to Highland Lodge (2.35) long considered an ideal type for the race and having run excellent races in defeat on both starts so far this season.
Fourth in the Hennessy last time the hope is that the selection doesn’t get embroiled in a battle for the lead but with 10stone 6lbs he will never have a better opportunity of landing a big one and he can reward each way support.Welsh National: Ew ¼ first 4; prices from BetVictor:
Well Refreshed: 13/2
Highland Lodge: 7/1
Merry King: 10/1
Hawkes Point: 12/1
Tidal Bay: 14/1
The Grade 1 Juvenile Hurdle is a fascinating contest with Chocala likely to improve considerably on heavy ground for Alan King but the vote goes to the Paul Nicholls-trained Solar Impulse (2.00) who recently took part in a racecourse gallop with Big Buck’s at Exeter, and makes his British debut having left his native France since scoring at Auteuil on heavy ground back in June. Nicholls, once again, has a raft of top class juveniles in his care and the word is this inmate is right at the very top of the pecking order.
Oliver Sherwood had three winners on Boxing Day at Fontwell and his Deputy Dan (12.30) can maintain the yard’s excellent form in the opening maiden hurdle having finished runner up in both starts over timber so far. The selection won two of his three Bumpers last season including one on heavy ground and the form of his latest length defeat to Champagne West at Warwick earlier in the month has been franked by the winner’s subsequent facile win at Wincanton.
At Newbury the Challow Hurdle is the Grade 1 feature and Oscar Rock (1.45) is the selection in a top class renewal; the race has been won by some top class performers in recent years including Denman (2006) and Reve De Sivola (2009) and this will be a severe test on heavy ground for these young horses. Oscar Rock gets a narrow vote having won twice at the Berkshire track during his Bumper campaign and he lost nothing in defeat when going down narrowly to the exciting Ballyalton at Newcastle last time.
I am loath to desert Creepy but he is not guaranteed to confirm recent Cheltenham form on 7lbs worse terms with Timesremembered from the Emma Lavelle yard and Captain Cutter is another to consider in a fantastic race.
There was a waft of burnt fingers at Warwick when the much vaunted Vukovar (2.15) lost to the enigmatic Mr Mole on his British debut but he can return to winning ways at the expense of the Queen’s Open Hearted in the Novices’ Chase for Harry Fry.
Interesting to see former Champion trainer Nicholls put Black River (2.50) back over timber having come a cropper on his chase and British debut at Newbury last month. He is also taken to score on his second start in Britain and he, like Vukovar, is potentially a very good horse.
Great to see Solwhit (1.50) back on track in the Grade 1 Xmas hurdle at Leopardstown and I am also looking forward to the chase debut of Grey Monk (2.20) in the Beginners’ Chase. The big one is the Lexus and I think both Bobs Worth and Sir Des Champs are vulnerable and I take a chance on the RSA winner Lord Windermere (2.55) to provide a bit of a shock.