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Coral Welsh Grand National Handicap Chase (Grade 3)
Welsh National tips for December’s Grade 3 race. Always a dour test over just shy of three and three-quarter miles, the Welsh National is a huge part of the Christmas program. Despite the demands on stamina, it often throws up a scintillating finish with the 2017 renewal looking as deep as ever. Read on for our free betting tips, predictions and analysis.
There is no better place to start the preview for the Welsh National than with a course expert in the shape of Rock The Kasbah. A perfect 3/3 here over fences, he has runner-up efforts in both a bumper and hurdle as well for an exceptional record. He proved his stamina for this far when only beaten just over two lengths in the bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown in April. The return to softer ground and this track saw him begin this season with a fluent win. That was a solid contest, a seven pound rise for that victory still leaving him a pound shy of his mark over hurdles. That certainly suggests that he still had room for progression as he is not yet eight,
Eight lengths in front of Rock The Kasbah in a Uttoxeter handicap in March was the Harry Fry trained American. He is currently high in the betting for the Ladbrokes Trophy and rightly so, looking hugely progressive in this discipline. Taken out of the RSA at the last minute with the ground too quick at the Cheltenham Festival, he looks a graded performer in the making. It remains to be seen how his handicap mark suffers if he goes close at Newbury, already boasting an official rating of 157. It would be a spectacular performance to win this race from a mark higher than that (Native River won this off 155 last season) but a proper stamina test in deep ground does look tailor made for him.
Raz De Maree was runner-up to Native River in this contest in 2016. He arrived in Wales off the back of a win in the Cork National, a contest he was runner-up in earlier this November. He is showing very few signs of slowing down despite rising thirteen so it would be no surprise to see connections plot the same route as they did last year. He was arguably flattered by his proximity to the winner on that occasion but he stays extreme trips well and relishes soft ground which it inevitably will be at Chepstow at the back end of the season. It would be a bit of a surprise if he were good enough to win, but a big run at a huge price would come as no surprise.
Yala Enki never looked happy when taken on for the lead in the Badger Ales Chase at Wincanton, jumping markedly to the left as if he would prefer to come back this way round. Happier when he is able to get his own way on the sharp end, he wouldn’t want to see the likes of American running here. That said, he gave the impression in the win that rounded off his previous campaign, that a step up in trip wouldn’t be an issue for him. He ploughed on up the Kelso hill in heavy ground over 3m2f, not stopping at the line, so for a yard who do so well with staying chasers (Emperor’s Choice winning this contest in 2014 just one example) he needs plenty of respect.
It’s really tough to know just how good Ask The Weatherman might be. He can be lazy in his races, so much that he gives the impression that he could gallop for as long as anybody could possibly need him to. Winning points and hunter chases is one thing, bringing that form into the handicap chase sphere under rules is a completely different ask. While he was impressive in winning over three and a half miles in an April point, it wasn’t until he won an Exeter handicap from 132 that we have some idea of his potential. He won that with a little up his sleeve and having already won on heavy ground, the eight-year-old looks the perfect stamp for this extreme stamina test for Jack Barber.
More than a year has elapsed since we last saw Binge Drinker in action, beating a certain Might Bite in a novice chase at Ffos Las. A winner on both soft and heavy ground, the decent conditions on that occasion looked against him, yet he was still able to get the better of the horse who currently heads the market for the King George. That was over an insufficient test stamina wise for the pair of them, but it is still a smart indication of what he may be capable of given a mark of 148 in a handicap. He has joined the ranks of Paul Nicholls since and should have plenty more progression in the tank given his size. The step back up to at least three miles and the return to softer ground will see him in a better light still, he is a fascinating contender if the yard are able to get a prep run into him.