Cloud to reign at Welsh National
The Willie Mullins-trained Arbor Supreme is the sole Irish challenger in this afternoon's rearranged Coral Welsh National at Chepstow.
In what is a typically open renewal of the three-mile-five-furlong handicap, the JP McManus-owned nine-year-old isn't without each-way prospects at up to 16/1. He will certainly revel in the extreme conditions and, like so many of Mullins' team this season, he is expected to improve greatly for his reappearance.
On that occasion, Arbor Supreme was well beaten in the Troytown Chase at Navan, his first start since unseating his rider in the Aintree Grand National in April.
Prior to that, he was second to Stewarts House in heavy ground at Leopardstown off a mark of 140, the same rating that he will run off today when you factor in his rider's claim. If Richie McLernon can coax a clear round out of Arbor Supreme, he is unlikely to be too far away at the finish.
Synchronised, which caught the eye when staying on well over hurdles at Cheltenham last month, will almost certainly go off favourite.
Tony McCoy's mount has not run over fences since beating the 2005 Welsh National hero L'Aventure over four miles at Uttoxeter in March. Off a 7lb higher mark, Synchronised doesn't look in any way harshly treated but, as low as 4/1 now, he offers little value in a race of this nature.
Preference is for I'moncloudnine, a horse that represents the up-and-coming partnership of Neil Mulholland and Dougie Costello. The selection is as big as 20/1 with some firms, an offering that does his chance little justice.
A five-time winner over fences, I'moncloudnine has performed with credit on each of his three starts this term. Beaten just quarter of a length at Bangor first time out, he then ran a fair fourth in better company at Wincanton, and he was travelling well in the Becher Chase when he parted company with his rider at the Canal Turn.
While today's conditions represent a step into the unknown, I'moncloudnine is clearly in good heart and there's no reason to believe that he won't see out the trip. With just 10st 3lb on his back and Mulholland's yard in form, he has plenty going for him.
In the opening beginners' chase at the Welsh venue, Voramar Two looks a solid option to justify favouritism in a race that lacks strength in depth. Whats Up Woody clearly has potential after winning twice from four starts over hurdles last term, but the form of the races that he won in the north hasn't held up too well.
Having chased home Watamu Bay, which runs in the day's feature, and Aiteen Thirtythree on his two most recent outings, Voramar Two sets the standard. Watamu Bay and Aiteen Thirtythree are two of the better staying novice chasers around, so it will be a surprise if Tom O'Brien's mount doesn't get off the mark now.
Over at Sandown, the 32Red Hurdle, formerly the Tolworth, is the most valuable race on show. Toubab heads the market for Paul Nicholls and Sam Thomas, but that one may not be cut out for the kind of slog that will ensue if the meeting defies the considerable amount of rain that is forecast for the London area.
Of the remaining four runners, Minella Class may be best equipped to cope. A heavy-ground bumper winner for Trevor Horgan at Naas last February, the Oscar six-year-old did little wrong when winning on his hurdling debut for Nicky Henderson three weeks ago. Should he improve on that, this looks a very winnable Grade One.
Also at Sandown, Henderson's Dave's Dream is worth an investment in the two-mile handicap chase. Hugely disappointing when favourite for a big handicap at Cheltenham in December, Dave's Dream, a former Imperial Cup winner at today's venue, may be better for the return to the minimum distance here.
Best bet: Dave's Dream