This will be a proper test for some inexperienced horses and Champagne Rhythm’s previous course form at Chepstow should stand him in extremely good stead. Pozo Emery was a beaten favourite on debut but is bred to relish this stiffer test and softer ground, and he can give the Evan Williams trained horse most to do.
Selection: Champagne Rhythm
Two trainers have dominated this contest over the last nine years, and both are represented here. Venetia Williams has won it an incredible five times in the last nine years, and Cepage looks an ideal type to improve her record further. He has done most of his recent racing at Cheltenham, but he loves soft ground and looks a horse that will relish the Chepstow test. However, shrewd trainer Alan Jones has won the race three times over the same period, including last year with Tiquer, and that horse is back to defend his crown. He’s only 5lbs higher than last year and carrying just 10 stone is such an asset on this ground at Chepstow that he may be the value to beat Cepage.
Evan Williams has his yard in fantastic form, and there’s good reason to believe that his popular inmate, Clyne can run back to his best and win this for the same combination. He was second twelve months ago carrying 4lbs more and, having lost his form a bit since then, he looked much more like his old self at Haydock last time out finishing second. This race has been kept in Wales for six of the last ten renewals, and I think it will be again.
This is a cracking renewal of a race that has produced some top class winners, including Bristol De Mai, Defi Du Seuil and last year’s winner Allmankind. The two week delay in running this race has seen Nassalam emerge as the leading contender. He’s won both his starts at Fontwell by a combined 108 lengths but this will be far tougher. Houx Gris is making his debut for Paul Nicholls having been a 200,000 euro purchase from France and is a serious contender and Elham Valley looked tough as nails when winning at Sandown. However Adagio looks a strong stayer, will relish the ground, and is in peak condition after three starts since the start of November.
Ask Me Early proved his liking for Chepstow when winning over course and distance last month. He’s only 6lbs higher in the weights and is carrying only 10st 6lbs in what will be really testing conditions. Hold That Taught looks the type of horse that will enjoy himself around here and can run well.
Selection: Ask Me Early
Easy As That is likely to start favourite, but Neon Moon might be the one to focus on here. He won an Irish point to point in September before finishing fourth under rules for David Pipe and Tom Scudamore at Southwell in a bumper looking like he would improve for the run. This looks a great opportunity for him.
Selection: Neon Moon
Secret Reprieve has a great profile for the race, having won the Welsh National trial last time out, is carrying 8lbs less than his official mark, and will be getting weight from almost every rival on heavy ground. But he’s a very short price as a result and there are a host of seriously tough staying chasers in this field that are more than capable of running big races. Yala Enki, Truckers Lodge and Ramses De Teillee all love Chepstow and will relish the conditions. However Lord Du Mesnil may be the one to stop the favourite having run second in the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham, and run over inadequate trips on his two starts this term.
Selection: Lord Du Mesnil
Whiteoak Fleur looks to have a leading chance in this mares’ contest for the Donald McCain stable. Her best form is on a soft surface and she could improve for this Chepstow test.
Selection: Whiteoak Fleur
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