Teaforthree was the one ante-post punters latched on to in the Coral Welsh National, even before it was originally postponed, and Rebecca Curtis‘ nine-year-old is almost certain go off favourite for the Grade 3 handicap at Chepstow this weekend. He beat today’s rivals Universal Soldier (12/1 with sportingbet) and Our Island (25/1 with sportingbet and Stan James) when winning the National Hunt Chase over 4m at the Cheltenham Festival last March in a race in which Soll (a best 12/1) was brought down around halfway when close up. Stamina clearly isn’t going to be an issue, therefore, for the favourite (7/2 with Stan James) who should be cherry-ripe now after a couple of runs this term. He was sixth in the Hennessy at Newbury on his latest start, with Soll back in eighth, and with A P McCoy doing the steering shouldn’t be far away with the heavy ground unlikely to be a problem. However, at the odds, there has to be better value elsewhere.
Had Victor Dartnall‘s stable not been temporarily closed down in November, Giles Cross would have been very interesting again. Neither the distance nor the ground would have been a problem and he was second in the race last season, albeit off an 11lb lower mark, and also filled the runner’s up spot behind Synchronised in 2011. He won the Southern National on his reappearance last term and his defeat of Neptune Collonges and Le Beau Bai in the Betfred Grand National Trial at Haydock in March couldn’t have worked out much better but the big negative is his age. Only one chaser older than nine has won the Coral Welsh National in the last 25 years so we’ll pass on Giles Cross at the general 10/1.
Viking Blond (15/2 with Stan James) is expected to reverse Cheltenham running with Monbeg Dude (a general 14/1) on 5lb better terms and the fact that Teaforthree was down the field that day advertises his claims while Sona Sasta (8/1 with Paddy Power) returned to form with victory at the track last month, though was a long way behind Giles Cross at Haydock last spring and his stable also run gutsy Cheltenham winner Master Overseer (14/1 with Skybet), though he was pulled up in this race last season.
Normally, a horse carrying 11st12lb in the Coral Welsh National would be among the first crossed off the list. But I’m of the opinion that this year’s renewal isn’t a strong one and, apart from the weight he has to carry, Across The Bay ticks all the boxes.
He’s certainly a class act, as he proved when third to Big Buck’s in the Grade 1 Liverpool Hurdle last year when Tidal Bay was only fourth, and has done really well back over fences this term, winning on heavy ground at Kelso and Carlisle. He was trying to give 6lb to Grade 2 winner Wayward Prince in a Listed chase at Aintree last time but the handicapper has left him on a mark of 153 and Donald McCain‘s nine-year-old may yet make him regret that decision. At the general 25/1, he looks a cracking each-way bet as that is almost four times the odds of Michel Le Bon (15/2 with Stan James) who must dispel doubts about both his stamina and ability to handle the going.