The rescheduled Welsh Grand National meeting takes places at Chepstow on Saturday afternoon, assuming heavy rain doesn’t bombard the track overnight.
It is a fine card and adds real depth to the first Saturday of 2018, with Sandown also boasting Grade 1 action in the form of the Tolworth Hurdle.
The feature at Chepstow goes off just after 2pm and is feverishly tough to solve so instead we’ll focus our bets on a couple of other fancied runners.
Nicky Henderson brings the exciting We Have A Dream to Wales for the Future Champions Finale Juvenile Hurdle (13:35) and he looks the one to be on at 4/5 (note: also entered first race Sandown, should Chepstow abandon).
He’s already two from two since joining the Seven Barrows team and couldn’t have impressed more in winning a Doncaster Grade 2 where he made all the running and still looked good in powering away at the end.
There’ll be dreams of Cheltenham in March should the gelding oblige once more, with the champion trainer currently firing winners left, right and centre, boasting a 36% strike-rate for the previous two weeks.
Warren Greatrex returns here with Shantou Bob looking to bag the three-mile handicap hurdle (14:45) for the second year running.
He came from a mile back last year to win, with a sustained effort from two out, and with his 7lb claimer’s help now, he’s essentially rated only 1lb higher. He had a nice prep for this at Cheltenham last month and could be primed for a big run, ensuring he looks worth a nibble at 7/1.
The Tolworth Novices’ Hurdle (14:25) is the feature event at Sandown, where testing ground is also set to prevail, and that could set things up nicely for the Paul Nicholls-trained 6/1 chance Mont Des Avaloirs.
He’s certain to give his running in the ground and was shaping very well ahead of Kilbricken Storm on his hurdling bow at Wincanton in November before taking a tumble at the final flight.
He’s since gone in without much fuss at Aintree and while this is a sizeable class jump, it isn’t a Nicholls trait to tilt wishfully at this sort of prize so it might just be worth trusting the judgement of the former champion trainer, despite both Kalashnikov and Western Ryder boasting solid credentials.
Finally for Saturday, a host of old favourites line up in the final of the 2017 Veterans’ Chase Series (15:00) and surely none do so in better health than 9/2 chance Gas Line Boy.
He ended last season with a solid fifth in the Grand National at Aintree and was booked for a win back there on his seasonal bow in October, only to come down when clear at the last.
There were no ill-effects when he again shone around Aintree to win the Grand Sefton over the National Fences last month and he can master these veteran rivals now, with jockey Brian Hughes currently riding full of confidence.
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