Wales belatedly joins in the festive racing fun on Saturday with its major betting contest of the year: the Welsh Grand National. Rescheduled from the 27th December due to inclement weather, many of the initial entries nevertheless still look set to line up. Expect a big field, big jumping and hopefully a big result as we fancy one at tasty odds this year.

Race Analysis

Paul Nicholls’ Vicente tops the weights at this stage and would certainly be an interesting contender if lining up on the day. He could manage only sixth behind Native River here twelve months ago, but whilst he took a few runs to warm to the task last season, he arrives in excellent form this time around. A fast finishing second in the BetVictor.com Handicap Chase at Cheltenham last time out, he will be suited by this step up in trip and is just 1lb higher here.

Bishops Road would seem the more likely of the two Kerry Lee runners in the current field having run second to one of the market leaders here, Beware The Bear, last time out at Newcastle. Off 10lbs lower than when well beaten in this last year he may go well. Lee’s 12 year old Alfie Spinner also looks interesting though. Boasting a solid record at the track with Chepstow form figures of 21042, he was second here last time out when running off this mark of 132 over 2m7½f. Doing all his best work late that day, he looks to have a squeak over this longer trip.

Colin Tizzard hasn’t enjoyed the brightest of starts to the season, with the seeming decline of stable stalwart, Cue Card. Thistlecrack’s promising effort in the King George was cause for optimism though, and he may well have something to smile about at the end of this contest. Two runs at this venue have yielded two second placed finishes for Tizzard’s Buckhorn Timothy, and the nine year old looks a versatile performer in regard to the ground. Whilst he is yet to tackle this trip, his best effort in some time came over 3m2f two starts back at Fontwell when staying on powerfully close home.

It would be remiss not to mention Beware The Bear here, with the Nicky Henderson runner putting in a pretty remarkable display last time out at Newcastle. Coming from an improbable position with his saddle having manoeuvred itself into an even more improbable position, he nevertheless flew up the home straight to win going away. With only a 4lb penalty to contend with, he looks set to go well.

Betting Tips

Beware The Bear must make the shortlist following that eye-catching effort at Newcastle last time out, but at a much bigger price the one to be on is Buckhorn Timothy. Two from two this season, each of those successes has come over hurdles, leaving his chase mark unaffected. We suspect this may be his big target and will be backing him each way at 40/1 with BetVictor.