Wayne Bailey: Teaforthree's stamina to prove the difference in Welsh slog
HAVING worked as a librarian for over a decade, down through the years I got the chance to notice the differences between the sexes when it comes to Irish reading habits.
Women, for example, have a ferocious appetite for novels and might borrow more than half a dozen books at a time.
But once they reach a certain age, men seem to move away from fiction and would rather browse the newspaper section or perhaps borrow a single book on sport or history.
That's a sweeping generalisation, of course, and there are exceptions to every rule.
Indeed, there was one fiction author who always proved popular among the older male population and that was the famous steeplechase jockey turned novelist, Dick Francis.
Sadly, Francis died a couple of years ago but he left behind a large collection of work including 40-odd bestsellers.
He led a colourful life and I found out only this week that, as a jockey, he won the Welsh Grand National in 1949, which was the first year it was run at its current location in Chepstow.
The race is on the move again (but only the date this time) and the 2012 renewal will now take place today at 3.20, having been cancelled on December 27 due to a waterlogged course.
At first glance, it might seem odd that nearly half the field are aged 10 or older but you have to be careful when looking at age at this time of the year as all racehorses have their official birthday on January 1 regardless of the actual date on which they were born.
If you're looking through the stats for angles like age then keep in mind that the horses listed as 10-year-olds on the racecard today would have been listed as nine-year-olds in December had the race gone ahead as scheduled.
The records say that since 1997, there's been 61 runners aged 10 or more but none have won and only five have placed, so horses aged 11 or more on today's card like Giles Cross are probably best avoided.
With the ground likely to be heavy, you need to be sure your horse will stay the distance and having won the four-mile Diamond Jubilee National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, Teaforthree is the unoriginal but safe option this afternoon, priced around 3/1.
While he only finished sixth, the now nine-year-old showed his best piece of form this season in the Hennessy Gold Cup last time out at Newbury (won by Bobs Worth) and it's worth noting that he has won before on heavy ground so conditions today should play to his strengths.
A big threat to the bet is likely to come in the guise of Michel Le Bon. The Paul Nicholls-trained gelding is relatively unexposed for his age and still has room for improvement in some good quality handicaps.
IT'S been a couple of years since his last win but with his mark back down to 142, Tim Vaughan's Tartak (12/1) has been given a chance by the handicapper and should have it in him to land a place in the 32Red.com HBLB Handicap Chase at Sandown (3.40), provided he keeps mistakes to a minimum.
* Last week's each-way selection, Above The Stars, was placed at 14/1
12.20 Lingfield: Gertrude Versed
1.35 Chepstow: Caid Du Berlais
3.20 Chepstow: Teaforthree
3.40 Sandown: Tartak (e/w)