The Welsh National (3.20pm, Chepstow, Saturday), traditionally run the day after Boxing Day, was rescheduled due to a waterlogged track. So stamina will need to be in strong supply.
Burgeoning young trainer Rebecca Curtis’ Teaforthree (3/1 Bet365) has yet to make the frame in two starts so far this season, but ran respectably when sixth in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury last month and has the assistance of champion jockey Tony McCoy. Teaforthree isn’t short of stamina, as he demonstrated when winning the National Hunt Chase over 4 miles at Cheltenham in March. He has won twice around Chepstow in the past, including on heavy going, so his chance is there for all to see.
However, strictly on the form book he has work to do to beat Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Viking Blond (8/1 Coral) and Michael Scudamore’s Monbeg Dude (14/1 SkyBet), who both finished a long way ahead of him when he made his seasonal debut, over 3 miles 3½ furlongs, at Cheltenham in November. Notwithstanding Patrick Corbett’s 10lb claim in that race, Teaforthree is still only 12lb better off for the 40 lengths he finished behind Monbeg Dude on that occasion and, even allowing for the fact that he may have needed that run, he looks worth taking on at a short price.
Viking Blond is 5lb better off with Monbeg Dude for a 2¾-length beating at Cheltenham, so there isn’t much to choose between them at the weights, at least not on paper. Nevertheless, it’s worth noting that Viking Blond was pulled up when favourite for this race, on similarly heavy ground, last season, so it’s debatable whether a slog through the mud is really what he needs. As a result, Michael Scudamore’s charge may, once again, come out best of the trio.
Nevertheless, a line through Bradley suggests that Monbeg Dude is some way behind both David Pipe’s 10-year-old Master Overseer (16/1 Bet365), who was pulled up in this race last year, but won over 3 miles 1½ furlongs on heavy going at Cheltenham last month. Master Overseer carries just a 4lb penalty for that success and still looks feasibly weighted, despite a career-high mark.
Of course, there are any number of plausible alternatives, including the topweight Across The Bay (25/1 BetVictor), who’s already won twice on heavy going this season and failed by just 2½ lengths to concede 6lb to previous Charlie Hall Chase runner-up Wayward Prince over 3 miles 1 furlong at Aintree last month.
Donald McCain’s nine-year-old is 18lb higher in the weights than when last winning a handicap, but beat the 147-rated Cappa Bleu by an easy 28 lengths on his penultimate start, so his revised mark of 153 may not be beyond him.
On the downside, the last Welsh National winner to carry 11st 12lb to victory was Carvill’s Hill, in 1991, who also started favourite for the Cheltenham Gold Cup in the same season, so Across The Bay appears to have a tough task conceding weight all round.
David Pipe’s 10-year-old Sona Sasta (15/2 Blue Square) carries just a 4lb penalty for winning over 3 miles on heavy ground here a month ago. However, he’s never won beyond 3 miles 2 furlongs and is just 12lb better off for 51 lengths with last year’s runner-up Giles Cross (10/1 Betfred, Ladbrokes) on their running in the Grand National Trial at Haydock Park last February.
The old boy Giles Cross is 8lbs higher in the weights this time around and, unlike last year, comes here without a preparatory run after an outbreak of equine herpes in the yard. Admirable though he is, the combination of a career-high mark and an absence of 266 days may be enough to prevent him from going one better this year.
Jo Hughes’ lightly-raced Soll (14/1 SkyBet, Betfred) is an interesting contender, having had just one run for the shrewd Lambourn trainer since being transferred from Willie Mullins’ yard in October. He’s actually 1lb worse off for the 5¾ lengths he was beaten by Teaforthree in the Hennessy Gold Cup, but was entitled to have needed that run, his first since March, and has form on heavy going. He has his stamina to prove, but may be open to further improvement after just four starts over regulation fences.
Paul Nicholls’ lightly-raced 10-year-old Michel Le Bon (7/1 Bet365, Ladbrokes) has clearly had his problems, but ran well when second in the Badger Ales Trophy, over 3 miles 1½ furlongs, at Wincanton in November and the winner that day, The Package, went on to finish a respectable fourth in the Hennessy Gold Cup. He’s 4lb higher in the weights and has his stamina to prove, but he’s won twice on soft ground and appeals as one of the more likely winners.
Welsh National Betting Tip Verdict
The favourite looks poor value and is not my cup of tea at a general 3/1. However MASTER OVERSEER has stamina in abundance, handles testing conditions and comes here in good form. So our betting advice is to back in-form David Pipe’s 10-year-old each-way at biggest odds of 16/1 with Bet365.