Wednesday 21 February 2018

Viking Blond can plunder Chepstow's Grand prize

Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

Paul Gilligan has recruited his fellow Galway native Alain Cawley to steer the 11-year-old Jadanli in today's rescheduled Welsh National at Chepstow.

A 33/1 shot for the three-mile-five-furlong slog, Jadanli has plenty to do in this competitive renewal of the prestigious handicap. However, having been placed in the Thyestes and Troytown Chases on two of his four latest runs, there are far worse each-way options.

Last successful in the Grade One Powers Gold Cup in 2010, Jadanli has only ever won when the word heavy was in the going description, and that preference for deep ground will be to his advantage now. With just 10st 5lb to carry, he is a lively outsider at the very least.

Michel Le Bon and Teaforthree, the respective mounts of Ruby Walsh and AP McCoy, both have chances. However, they are priced accordingly, and have plenty of weight in this ground.

Along with Jadanli, the two that appeal as offering the best value are Viking Blond and Giles Cross.

The 11-year-old Giles Cross has been second in this the past two years, and makes his seasonal reappearance now off an 8lb higher mark than he ran off 12 months ago. With 11st 3lb to carry, he probably has it all to do, and it is an added worry that Victor Dartnall's team has yet to hit form since being struck by the equine herpes virus.

That all said, when Giles Cross won a similar event at Haydock last February, he beat the subsequent Aintree Grand National hero Neptune Collonges and the 2011 winner of this Le Beau Bau, while Sona Sasta, a leading fancy here, was a long way back in fifth.

That is fairly serious form so bearing in mind his record in this, that he is also a dual course winner and that he goes well fresh, he is a reasonable each-way option at 10/1. Still, despite a poor show here in 2011, Nigel Twiston-Davies' Viking Blond may be the more likely winner.

Sent off favourite off a 5lb higher mark last season, the eight-year-old was one of the first beaten. That may have simply been because he wasn't allowed to dictate the pace, which he often does, but his rider, the in-form trainer's son Sam, will be wiser to that this time.


More importantly, Viking Blond has shown plenty in two starts at Cheltenham this term, a fine second to Action Master over hurdles in October preceding his third to Monbeg Dude in a three-and-a-half-mile Grade Three handicap chase in November.

On both days, he led into the straight, only to be done for a turn of foot up the hill.

Paul Carberry flies in to ride Monbeg Dude today, but that one is now 5lb worse off with the selection, which has two wins and a second to its name in three other starts at Chepstow.

When scoring here on his fencing bow in October 2011, Viking Blond accounted for Alfie Spinner off levels, yet he receives 4lb off that one here, though Nick Williams' representative is expected to take up an engagement at Sandown instead.

Nonetheless, the theory remains that Viking Blond is fairly treated under 10st 7lb, as he has scope to improve on just his ninth outing over fences. At 8/1, he is worth an investment.

In Sandown's 32Red Tolworth Novices' Hurdle, Melodic Rendezvous, second to Champagne Fever at Punchestown last term, is one of seven contenders to tackle a less than vintage edition of this Grade One. Poet strikes as the best option at 4/1 under Dominic Elsworth.

A classy Flat horse that began its career at Ballydoyle, Clive Cox's eight-year-old made a belated hurdling bow at Newbury recently. In deep going that he relishes, Poet won with a touch of style, and it's not hard to envisage him making the most of similar conditions here.

The Paul Moloney-ridden William's Wishes is also fancied in the preceding handicap chase. Unbeaten in four over fences, Evan Williams' lightly raced runner slammed Champion Court at Ascot last time. He is 9lb higher now, but the runner-up paid him a fine compliment when showing up brilliantly for a long way in the King George at Kempton.

Best Bet: Poet

Irish Independent

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