We Have A Dream was impressive when defeating City Dreamer at Doncaster and though he is undoubtedly a classy individual, this will be very testing on the deep ground at Chepstow. Sussex Ranger also looked impressive at Sandown, winning in a good time but again, this will be a totally different experience for Gary Moore’s four year old and maybe the value lies with Famous Milly or Mercenaire. Famous Milly’s defeat of Malaya at Aintree was done on heavy ground and on the figures looks the main challenger to the favourite @ 11/2 while Mercenaire, who’s trainer Nick Williams has won this twice in the last ten years should be respected @ 15/2.
Tactically, this will be an interesting affair as Gino Trail, Pearls Legend and Speredek all like to set the pace which could play into the hands of Overtown Express and Rock On Rocky, a definite contender if turning up, but likely to take up his engagement at Chepstow. The 5/2 looks fair for Overtown Express, who is a winner on heavy ground over hurdles but the in-form pair of Gino Trail and Speredek will not be easy to pass on a course that does favour prominent racers.
Beware The Bear’s jumping may not be slick but he stays and stays and this test will be right up his street. Inexperienced in terms of Nationals, this is a tougher examination than the Rehearsal Chase for Nicky Henderson’s improving seven year old though this is a race for younger stayers. Only Synchronised and Native River have defied big weights in recent years so the question is posed, are Beware The Bear, impressive Haydock winner Chase The Spud, Scottish National winner Vicente and trial winner Wild West Wind, of that ilk? It may pay to look further down the weights, Mysteree @ 12/1, second to Chase The Spud in the Midlands National will be making his seasonal debut and can go well fresh while Final Nudge fits the right profile. David Dennis’ son of Kayf Tara was still in contention when falling four out in the Midlands National and stayed on well in the Badger Ales at Wincanton. He could well be the value @ 14/1. Raz De Maree, second last year, is worth shortlisting for place purposes while previous winner Emperor’s Choice took advantage of a falling handicap mark at Haydock and if in the same form again, could go well @ 20/1. Vintage Clouds is interesting @ 12/1 if the jumping holds together, his second to Clan Des Obeaux last time reading well.
Western Ryder looks the one to beat @ 15/8 in the Tolworth Hurdle, conditions will hold no fears for Warren Greatrex’s son of Westerner and he has solid form claims having had Sharp Novices’ Hurdle second, Summerville Boy, five lengths back at Cheltenham last time. With Sussex Ranger likely to be otherwise engaged, Kalashnikov looks the chief threat to Western Ryder @ 15/8 after two facile wins in novice hurdles at Wetherby and Doncaster, with the only question mark being the heavy ground. Mont Des Avaloirs will enjoy the stamina test this race will provide and this big, scopey brother to Le Prezien could be the value option @ 7/1.
With the likely defection of Play The Ace and Pressurize to Chepstow this race looks at the mercy of Antartica De Thaix @ 7/4. A good second to Mia’s Storm at Market Rasen on her seasonal debut this course and distance winner should continue her progress here. The main threat may well come from Kayf Adventure @ 7/1 who has been disappointing on his last two starts but will handle conditions and can improve. O Maonla tends to produce his best at Newbury and may struggle in this class while Uhlan Bute could go well @ 10/1 and looks very well handicapped, that said a lack of fitness and the fact he has only won once over fences casts major doubts.
An extremely competitive veterans’ chase with Pete The Feat aiming to reproduce his win in this last year. Having won over course and distance at the beginning of December everything looks primed for Pete The Feat to run a big race @ 11/1. Cloudy Too ran an encouraging race behind Chase The Spud at Haydock, the form looking good and should go well @ 9/1 while Gas Line Boy, who seems to be improving at the ripe old age of twelve should have a big say in this @ 5/1. Perfect candidate and Benbens have to come into calculations but the handicapper may just have their measure while Vino Gregio, only seen twice on course since 2015 took a step in the right direction last time at Lingfield, is well handicapped and with Jojno O’Neill taking seven pounds off, is interesting @ 14/1.
An intriguing race in which Le Bozeilo @ 7/2, fresh from a good second on New Year’s Day, looks to build on that effort in conditions and at a course that will suit. Bill And Barn is making his debut over fences, looks on a good mark and his ample stamina should come into play in the testing ground making him a serious player @ 2/1. Walt is of a similar vein to Bill And Barn in that the a stamina test will suit and should be doing his best work at the end of the race while there is still a cloud over the Tizzard stable which urges caution over Silverhow.
Conditions should hold no fears for Call Me Lord though more was expected on his seasonal debut at Huntingdon when only keeping on third was achieved. He will no doubt strip fitter and is clearly better than that and deserves utmost respect. Our Merlin rattled in three victories in the space of ten days in December, has been freshened up for this and is a serious contender @ 9/2. This is a big step up in class but the manner in which his wins have been achieved suggest he can perform at this level. Clayton has had his problems but came back to something like his best at Lingfield and if building on that run has to be on the shortlist @ 13/2. Drops Of Jupitor could spoil the party @ 7/1, Anthony Honeyball’s six year old mare, ridden by Richard Johnson, is unexposed and capable of better if handling the ground.
The form of Edvardo’s second to Padleyourowncanoe looks good and he is entitled to go well here though the 7/2, in such a big field, may be on the short side. Mare’s Daytime Ahead and Lagavara are closely matched on their Leicester run and both should go well again with claimers Ned Curtis and Tom Humphries aiding their chances respectively though Lagavara is open to more improvement @ 15/2. Head To The Stars, Mon Palois and Monbeg Theatre should all come into calculations while Winning Spark goes well at Wincanton, looks like the extra distance can suit and this eleven year old can go well @ 14/1.
Quickened Clear's Best Bets:
Gas Line Boy – 3.00 Sandown – 1pt win @ 5/1
Our Merlin – 3.35 Sandown – 1pt win @ 9/2