MELISSA JONES: Pulses racing at yard ahead of Welsh National

OPINION is divided amongst the stable grooms at a yard with two Coral Welsh National entrants over which horse goes to the Christmas cracker with the better chance.

Mountainous and Knock A Hand were put through their paces in front of the media on Thursday, as part of the build up to the £100,000 contest.

After ambling my way to the yard near the Welsh border, a little hampered by Hereford Christmas shoppers, I was keen to hear how the pair were shaping up from the people who know them best.

An outing up the gallops was followed by a wash down in the stables for the two hopes, where they were tended to by their work riders.

Excitement is building at the yard which won the annual stamina test with Le Beau Bai in 2011.

“He works like a machine,” said Cairon Archer about Mountainous.

“He’s going to win.”

Trainer Richard Lee expressed his delight with the run of the Welsh National 16-1 shot on December 7, when he finished under seven lengths behind winner De La Bech at Chepstow.

The pair may renew rivalry over the course in the 3m 5f contest, one of the sporting highlights of the festive season.

Lee said: “I thought Mountainous ran a great race, the ground was quick enough for him. Maybe we didn’t make enough use of the horse in the race, he has lots of stamina.”

Knock A Hand, 25-1 with the sponsors, is entered tomorrow at Carlisle for his Welsh National warm up.

Lee admits the horse lost his way a little last year, but is enjoying some kind of resurgence with the addition of blinkers.

He said: “He was never right last season, but he’s a different horse this year.”

His work rider Lorna Brooke, who schools Mountainous, believes the lesser fancied of the pair goes to Chepstow with a better chance.

She said they could not be more different in stature, Mountainous is a big type with lots of scope while Knock A Hand has a shorter neck and stride.

She added: “I think Knock A Hand is the better horse, especially if he can run to his hurdling form over fences.”

And so with two weeks before Chepstow takes centre stage, attention turns to Cheltenham today with the newly named Stewart Family Thank You Gold Cup.

How the horses fared in the Paddy Power Gold Cup at the course is often a good pointer to this race and I was on the unlucky in running second there, Colour Squadron.

Some believe the winner, Johns Spirit, the favourite for today’s contest has more improvement in him but I’m not so sure.

He was all out to hold the runner-up, who lost several lengths after being hampered by the fall of Easter Meteor and there is every chance the tables will be turned this afternoon.

Tom O’Brien made Colour Squadron’s mind up at the fences there so he should have no problems adapting to AP’s aggressive style.

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