MELISSA JONES: Marking your card at Chepstow
7:00am Saturday 28th December 2013 in Sport
12.30: Wales' biggest horse racing meeting can get off to a flyer with the likeable DEPUTY DAN. It's going to take a smart one to stop this five-year-old opening his account over hurdles, as the horse that beat him last time from the Hobbs stable has franked the form in better company. The pair were clear and this should be a bright start to Welsh National day for favourite backers.
1.00: RICHMOND can get a winner on the board for Herefordshire in race two. Venetia Williams' raider should find this easier than the competitive handicap he contested at Cheltenham last time and is open to more improvement.
1.30: IT'S not his name that has taken my eye but I like the chances of UGLY BUG off bottom weight here. Mullins places his horses well and I remember watching this one plough through the mud to win at Wincanton earlier in the year. He's not the quickest but his record is two from three on heavy and he warmed up nicely for this last time at the track.
2.00: IT'S probable KENTUCKY HYDEN found the going too fast last time out and he should be more at home in the mud today. Nicky Henderson's charge was outpointed by a Welsh 33-1 shot there and while that was disappointing, he kept on well up the hill. Chepstow has a stiff finish too and this three-year-old comes here battle hardened. Le Rocher is an interesting contender from the Nick Williams camp.
2.35: The big race of the day is upon us and what a Welsh National it is. Twenty runners and no outstanding favourite means any amount of outcomes for punters on course and in betting shops far and wide. For me the bet is VINTAGE STAR each-way. His colours are known for a National victory (Hedgehunter at Aintree) and this one is an old fashioned staying chaser. I liked his run last time when he went hoof to hoof in a battle with another of today's rivals Hey Big Spender at Newcastle. He's got a lovely racing weight of ten stone and stays dourly, which he'll need to. For all that I love Tidal Bay, it's asking a lot of the enigmatic character to lump top weight around here. The Irish have been keen to get Goonyella to the track and he's one for the shortlist, along with Knock A Hand, who looks like he will relish such a test in the headgear. A fascinating renewal and may the best horse win.
3.10: COVERHOLDER has taken to fences with aplomb and the handicapper might not have caught up with him yet. He drops back in trip but the race may be set up for a stayer if Mail de Bievre sets off at a decent gallop. The danger might come from the unexposed Un Bon P'tit Gars.
3.45: BAR A MINE can end the meeting on a high for Paul Nicholls. It often pays to stick with horses with experience in races like this when horses are learning their trade. He's owned by Welshman Dai Walters too whose Mountainous will have run in the big race by now. He'll be wanting a winner on this day and is likely to recoup a slice of his training fees in the lucky last.
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