Classy 'Adrien' primed to make his Finale point for Nicholls
This corner got 2016 off to a reasonably good start with a couple of winners - but I must admit it was a much-needed boost after the Christmas Festival at Leopardstown.
The Sunday in particular proved glum as myself and the lads barely picked a winner between us. On many occasions, we've practically danced up Leopardstown Road on our way to the boozer after a good battle with the layers but this year, not even a Toblerone from the ladies outside with the buggies could lift the mood as the cold evening swept across Killiney Hill and settled over south county Dublin.
Four odds-on favourites, some of which we'd backed, had been turned over and as we sipped our first pint of stout, the consensus among the group was that the heavy ground was the main culprit in what turned out to be a very expensive day.
As punters, it's always easy to blame an outside factor when things don't go your way and I was happy to hold the elements responsible when anyone asked how we'd got on in the betting ring that afternoon.
But the truth is, National Hunt favourites do not get beaten more often when conditions are bad - and we had simply made the mistake of punting too heavily on animals which were unproven on the going.
Having used and heard the heavy ground excuse many times when a favourite is beaten, I decided to look into the stats to see if it stands up. To my surprise, National Hunt favourites on heavy ground actually have a higher win rate than average.
In the last ten years, there's been over 5,600 races in the UK and Ireland in which the ground was described as heavy and the favourite has a strike-rate of 38pc.
Compare that to the strike-rate on soft/yielding (36pc), good to soft (36pc) or good (35pc) and you will see that in general, punters don't actually suffer as much as we like to make out when the weather is poor.
I suppose it's a case of trying to filter out the false favourites when the ground is heavy and it's worth noting that National Hunt favourites which have won at least three times on heavy ground in the past actually prove slightly profitable to follow when backed blindly on that ground again.
The going will certainly be heavy at Chepstow this afternoon but there's still quite a bit of guesswork involved when analysing the Coral.co.uk Future Champions Finale Juvenile Hurdle (2.20) as the horses are obviously somewhat inexperienced and have yet to show their preferences.
From what little evidence we have, Adrien Du Pont is a worthy favourite priced around 11/10 and he can help get the Paul Nicholls yard rediscover their Saturday groove.
Sceau Royal reversed the form between the two and beat the selection in the Triumph Hurdle Trial at Cheltenham last time but that's still the best form on offer here and I suspect that previous winning course form at a place like Chepstow will be a plus.
He's never raced on heavy but it was quite soft at Cheltenham last time out and on all known form, he should have enough to keep the likes of Coo Star Sivola and Jaboltiski at bay.
One Nicholls runner I'm happy to oppose is Ptit Zig, which will most likely be an odds-on price for the three-runner Listed Williamhill.com Chase at Kempton (2.00).
A faller in the Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon last month, I'm starting to worry about his jumping and he also wasn't very fluid in a Grade Two at Ascot in November.
Rated 3lb clear on 165, Wishfull Thinking is a veteran aged 13 but he jumped really well to finish third in the Peterborough Chase. There'll be no room for mistakes in these conditions but considering he handles heavy ground quite well, 7/4 early-doors seems fair.
On this side of the water at Punchestown, Willie Mullins' Min is expected to go off at a long odds-on price in the Grade Two Sky Bet Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle (2.05) and although it's highly unlikely that he'll be beaten, I think he's worth taking on at the prices.
While his two runs in France were nothing special, Mullins and owner Rich Ricci know a good one when they see it and the five-year-old won his Irish debut race at Punchestown with the minimum of fuss.
Still though, a forecast price of 2/11 based mostly on what we've heard about him rather than seen is a little extreme, and I wouldn't put anyone off having a couple of euro on Attribution around 5/1 in case the favourite fluffs his lines.
Henry de Bromhead's gelding won a maiden at Wexford back in October, and improved a bit to finish second to A Great View on heavy ground at Punchestown last time.
IT'S going to take a tough one to win the rescheduled Coral Welsh Grand National (1.45 Chepstow) on heavy ground but Rebecca Curtis' Bob Ford loves a hard slog through the mud and if you ask me, he's an each-way steal at 14/1 or thereabouts.
I thought he'd be a good deal shorter but I guess punters are put off by the fact that he was pulled up seven times in a 22-race career.
I admit that it's a slight worry and he certainly has an odd temperament - but when conditions are in his favour, he really flourishes and Curtis will no doubt have him primed.
A son of Vinnie Roe, he forged clear to win a Ffos Las handicap off 133 in heavy ground last month, and a racing weight of 10st 11lbs shouldn't prove too much of a burden.
1.45 Chepstow: Bob Ford (e/w)
2.0 Kempton: Wishfull Thinking
2.05 Punchestown: Attribution
2.20 Chepstow: Adrien Du Pont
2.30 Lingfield: Captain Cat
2.35 Kempton: Unowhatimeanharry