CHEPSTOW’S last meeting before the Welsh National went ahead on Saturday after the track passed a morning inspection, writes Jim Beavis.

The three-mile novice hurdle for conditional jockeys produced a terrific duel from the third last, with Bill And Barn and the favourite Rhaegar slugging it out all the way to the line, with a huge gap back to the rest. After a long wait for the judge’s verdict, a dead heat was announced.

Evan Williams’ Chooseyourweapon shrugged aside a penalty for his course and distance win a month ago to win the two and a half mile novice hurdle. He’s now unbeaten in three starts.

The Welsh National Trial, over three miles, went to Wild West Wind, who was coming back from a 288 day absence. He was still going well when left in a clear lead four out, and though he tired in the closing stages he held on by a length and three quarters. If his trainer Tom George thinks he can avoid the bounce factor he will be an interesting contender for the Welsh National itself on the 27th.

Meanwhile, at Sandown the absence of Irish challengers such as Douvan and Un De Sceaux meant that the Tingle Creek was not a vintage renewal.

Nevertheless, the grey Politologue, appreciating a strongly-run two miles, won decisively to give Paul Nicholls his tenth success in the race. He’s likely to have just one more race, at Ascot, before the Queen Mother Champion Chase.

This race told us that two miles on goodish ground is too short for Fox Norton, the runner-up.

Bernard Llewellyn’s Shadow’s Boy opened his account last Thursday. After a fairly dismal string of efforts in point-to-points the eight-year-old has found hurdling much more to his liking. Four placed efforts were followed by this victory at Wincanton. Whether he would have won if his main rival hadn’t come down at the third last we will never know, but he could do no more than win and there could be more to come.

Grace Harris’ popular veteran Paddy The Oscar is entered at Warwick on Thursday and Hereford on Saturday. Rapidly approaching his fifteenth birthday, his most recent form figures of 2212 are a great tribute to his attitude as well as his ability. Strange though it may seem, for a horse of that age he is relatively lightly raced, having had only 33 races under National Hunt rules, winning five of them. He has had three long spells on the sidelines in his career but, touch wood, he has run often and well since joining Grace’s Shirenewton yard, where he is one of their favourites.

The Peterborough Chase, originally due to be run last Sunday at Huntingdon, has been rescheduled for Taunton tomorrow. Connections of Cue Card are thinking of running him there.

Cheltenham are hopeful that their big meeting on Friday and Saturday will go ahead in spite of the wintry weather. Paul Nicholls has three entries in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup, the feature of Saturday’s card, two of which are among the early favourites.

Clan Des Obeaux has twice been beaten by only half a length by Whisper, and Le Prezien was a close third in the BetVictor a month ago.

The winner of that race, Splash Of Ginge, is likely to renew rivalry.