Mud, mud glorious Welsh National mud… except this year’s Chepstow renewal may not be akin to a natural roll around for hippos.
The last few days have seen nothing more than drizzle at the South Wales track – hence the going is only described as soft and I think that will suit recent Becher Chase runner-up Vieux Lion Rouge.
Rated as high as 154 after winning the Grand National Trial Handicap Chase in 2017, and finishing sixth in One For Arthur’s Aintree National success, the nine-year-old has now fallen to a rating of 146 and following two wind operations looks as though he has retained all of his considerable ability.
Heavy ground would have compromised his chance, but this surface should hold no fears for him and it is worth noting he has a tremendous strike-rate when racing north of three miles over fences, winning twice and being placed on three other occasions.
The huge blob of cream on the VLR cake is the fact that David Pipe, for so long in doldrums, has hit form with vengeance in the last fortnight and Tom Scu has chosen him in preference to ante-post favourite and stable mate Ramses De Teillee.
Of his rivals, last year’s third and fourth, Final Nudge and Vintage Clouds, are weighted to reverse form with the first and second Raz de Maree and Alfie Spinner, but a much bigger danger could come in the form of the highly progressive local hope Looksnowtlikebrian.
Four from six in his chase career to date, he ran on powerfully when winning over an extended three miles at Carlisle and fully deserves his 9lbs penalty.
Le Rocher has a 7lbs pull with top weight Beggar’s Wishes on recent Newton Abbot form and could be the answer to the two and a half mile handicap chase due off at 13:05.
But the best bet on the card could come in the form of Looks Like Power in the staying handicap hurdle at 14:10.
This is a significant rise in class for Debra Hamer’s charge, but the Pembrokeshire trainer is a dab hand at placing her stayers, cue the winning run of the magnificent Tobefair in 2017, and this Chepstow specialist looks nailed on to be in at the climax to this lung bursting event.
Good ground will be the surprise going description at Leopardstown in deepest December and that should suit Footpad, who is on a retrieval mission in the Paddy’s Rewards Club ‘Sugar Daddy’ Chase at 13:15.
The highly rated Daly Tiger looks the pick in the Grade One Paddy Power Future Champions Novice Hurdle at 13:50, but if you are looking for a large slab of value then look no further than Ivanovich Gorbatov in the handicap hurdle at 14:25.
He will relish the current going conditions if he gets into a rhythm and is worth an each-way investment at the chief expense of Capital Force.
I just love having a tilt at the Paddy Power Handicap Chase (15:00) and I have invested in top weight Dounikos at a huge price and De Name Escapes Me.
The former has seemingly lost his way in the last eight months, but the handicapper has acted accordingly and he looks very dangerous off a mark of just 144.
Noel Meade’s charge looks made for the hurly burly of this valuable feature handicap.
And having hacked up last time over shorter is thoroughly unexposed over this extended trip and could still be well treated in an entry full of has-beens.
And finally………..don’t miss out on the giant Kilcrea Vale on the good ground he has been crying out for in the Kempton Park 15:05. He should have been sharpened up by his seasonal debut third in the Grand Sefton Chase and could improve for going right-handed.