The action keeps on coming with nine races from Kempton and Chepstow and we’ll start at the Welsh track.
Hard to get away from the very good recent record of Venetia Williams team and her Eceparti has been climbing up the weights, having won his last two contest. My old boss sends Whatswrongwithyou to Wales for this and if it doesn’t turn into a slog in the mud, he should win. The worry is that he is not the bravest in a fight so for that reason, Eceparti gets the nod.
Allmankind has looked good when winning the last twice, but this is another big test for him. This trip in this ground is extreme and that is a concern for him. If he falters, Tavus could take advantage. He needs to jump a bit more fluently than he did at times at Newcastle, but he handles the ground & Is an each-way price against the favourite.
Evan Willimas’ Clyne is a decent price in the 3m handicap hurdle and stamina is not a problem for him. He handles conditions and has dropped down the ratings to a mark below his last winning mark.
That will do for me.
Tom O’Brien won the Welsh National on Elegant Escape last year and Dream Alliance a while back and he has a hell of a chance of making it three wins on Now Mcginty. He ticks the box of having won at Chepstow, when beating De Rasher Counter last year who won this season’s Ladbroke Trophy at Newbury. That form reads even better now and the selection will handle the ground.
Reigning champ Elegant Escape should be bang there again, but he has top weight to carry which is far from ideal. And that will be tough to defy. Potters Corner has a good chance of being placed. He has a good claimer on board and is guaranteed to stay the 3m 5f trip in a race where Paddy is paying the first 5 home.
Fanion D’estruval was very impressive at Newbury so it is very hard not to fancy his chances on Friday as he gets 5lb from Al Dancer and 2lb from Grand Sancy. Venetia Williams’ runner gets the nod over the other two.
Coillte Eile won nicely at Ascot and only went up 5lb for that win and is the selection here. The other one that caught my eye was last year’s winner Culture de Sivola who is only 5lbs higher. It was a tough choice between the pair but Coillte Eile gets the vote.
No Altior so that puts a differetn complexion on this contest. I was super impressed with Capeland last time at Ascot. The faster they go, the better it will be for him. Sceau Royal is likely to start favourite and an easy 2m on a flat track looks ideal for him but Paul Nicholls’ Capeland is improving and can continue that progress on Friday by winning.
Belami Des Pictons ran a nice race at Cheltenham behind Happy Diva and will take a lot of beating now he has that run under his belt and with ground conditions now in his favour.
Nicky Henderson has such a good record at Kempton over Christmas that it’s hard to look past his runners in this. French Crusader ran a lovely race when second to Epatante (runs in Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on Thursday) at Newbury. With the benefit of that run, he has to be fancied here. But the same can be said for Elusive Belle who was just behind him in that Newbury race and the filly may just have the edge in this.
*Prices and entries correct at publication