The first Saturday afternoon of 2018 and there is Grade 1 action at both Chepstow and Sandown, assuming the rain doesn’t wreak any more havoc overnight.
The rescheduled Welsh Grand National card is full of promise at Chepstow, with the feature event typically puzzling for punters while at Sandown the Tolworth Hurdle features some exciting youngsters.
A host of old favourites, however, will line up in the final of the 2017 Veterans’ Chase Series (15:00) at the Esher track and surely none do so in better health than 9/2 chance Gas Line Boy?
Ian Williams’ charge ran a fine fifth in the Grand National at Aintree on his final start last season and has backed that form up in two spins at the Merseyside track this season.
He was booked for success on his reappearance in October, only to come down at the last, but he made no mistake in the Grand Sefton over the National Fences last month. With jockey Brian Hughes in superb form lately, Gas Line Boy is the choice in the Veterans’ Finale.
The Grade 1 Tolworth Novices’ Hurdle (14:25) is the feature event at Sandown and with testing ground set to prevail, it might play nicely into the hands of the Paul Nicholls-trained 6/1 chance Mont Des Avaloirs.
The five-year-old is taking a sizeable class jump here on what is just his third start over hurdles. He was giving subsequent Grade 2 winner Kilbricken Storm plenty to think about on his debut at Wincanton, only to come down at the last, but showed no ill-effects when scoring next time at Aintree on heavy ground.
Both Kalashnikov and Western Ryder have achieved more and can hold huge claims, but it isn’t a Nicholls trait to go bidding fancifully at this sort of prize and so a chance can be taken on the judgement of the 10-time champion trainer.
The current champ, Nicky Henderson, brings the hugely promising We Have A Dream to Wales for the Future Champions Finale Juvenile Hurdle (13:35) at Chepstow.
He’s a perfect two from two over timber and could scarcely have impressed more in landing a Doncaster Grade 2 before Christmas after making every yard of the running.
A more testing surface is seemingly the only question mark for him now and he can land the odds at 4/5 to further cement his growing reputation at Seven Barrows.
Warren Greatrex returns to Chepstow, with Shantou Bob looking to bag the three-mile handicap hurdle (14:45) for the second year running. He came from a long way back to win this race a year ago and has been campaigned sparingly since.
He had a nice prep for this at Cheltenham last month and could be primed for a big run here, where claimer Thomas Greatrex takes 7lb and ensures Shantou Bob is essentially only 1lb higher than when winning this contest 12 months ago.
As such he is worth a nibble to repeat the trick at odds of 13/2 and certainly looks capable of getting involved in the finish.
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