The rearranged Welsh Grand National (14:05) takes place at Chepstow on Saturday, and with the ground currently described as ‘heavy’, stamina is going to be paramount. It is one of the most gruelling tests of the year – rather like going to the mother-in-law’s birthday dinner – for National Hunt horses, and only the strong will survive.
The Lee family have enjoyed plenty of success in this race in recent years, winning it three times since 2011, and Kerry Lee has seemingly laid out Bishops Road, currently 12/1, for a tilt at this big prize. Bishops Road looked all set to make a winning reappearance in the Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle last month, leading after the last fence, only for Beware The Bear to come charging home like an equine Usain Bolt to land the spoils.
In fairness, Beware The Bear – and more significantly Sean Bowen – deserved extra credit for their success, out of their ground entering the straight due to a slipped saddle, but still having enough in hand to overcome the circumstances and win. A subsequent 4 lb rise is perhaps lenient with that in mind.
Wild West Wind is the up-and-comer in the pack and is accorded plenty of respect for his latest victory over three miles at this course. It could just be that the week and a half delay is a blessing in his case, as his victory early last month could well have taken more out of him than it seemed. Either way, he is an improving type, who has all the attributes to do well in a race of this nature.
But, in a very open renewal, it is Bishops Road that comes out top on our list.
Now 10 lb lower than when contesting this race last season, and with a promising reappearance under his belt, he is expected to make a bold bid.
There is also the interesting Grade 1 Juvenile Hurdle (13:35) at Chepstow on Saturday which, despite the small field, still has plenty of quality. In horse racing, horses often try new disciplines, and Sussex Ranger – the Rio Ferdinand of racing – is a prime example of how a fairly useful horse on the Flat can take off over hurdles. He has won both his starts to date and his latest win at Sandown stood up well on the clock with races later on the card, so with plenty about him physically, he seems sure to improve further still.
We Have A Dream, on the other hand, is cut from a different cloth, but is still a potentially smart type, and could be better suited by the likely testing conditions given his time in France. They both hold entries in the Tolworth at Sandown, too, but this race is their first preference. Famous Lily and Mercenaire both won by wide margins in heavy ground last time, so will seemingly relish conditions, but whether they possess the class of the other two remains to be seen.
Odds correct at time of posting