It is 30 years since Bonanza Boy lugged 11st 11lb to victory in the Welsh National, becoming the first and so far only horse to win the race in successive years since it moved to Chepstow in 1949.
Rarely has his sole ownership of that record faced as stern a threat as it does on Friday, however, as Elegant Escape, a one-and-a-quarter-length winner off a 9lb lower mark last year, could not be returning in better form. He was only two lengths behind De Rasher Counter, who was getting 11lb, in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury last time and should improve again for Friday’s marathon trip.
The ground is more testing this year, however, and 11st 12lb could leave him vulnerable to a progressive rival. Now McGinty and Potters Corner both have strong claims and marginal preference is for the latter at around 7-1. Christian Williams has kept him to hurdles since his win in the Midlands National in March, and his handicap win this month suggests he remains on a very fair mark.
Chepstow 1.05 Eceparti is 11lb higher in the weights after a 12-length success at Wetherby last time but remains unbeaten after two starts over fences and should have significant improvement to come.
Kempton Park 1.20 A race that has not attracted more than five runners for a decade but Cyrname, Altior and Sprinter Sacre are on the roll of honour in that time and this year’s renewal looks up to scratch. Al Dancer was one of the best novices over hurdles last season and has done little wrong in two starts over fences, but Fanion D’Estruval could not have been more impressive on his British debut at Newbury last month and is the narrow pick to continue Venetia Williams’s strong run of form.
Chepstow 1.35 This could well end up as a head-to-head between Allmankind and Cerberus. Both are unbeaten in two starts over hurdles but Joseph O’Brien’s juvenile beat a stable companion in JP McManus’s colours in a Grade Three last time out and has since been snapped up to run in the green-and-gold colours. At the prices, he looks the bet at around 7-4 to give McManus a swift return on his latest investment.
Kempton Park 1.55 A long list of possible winners here but Miss Tynte stopped the clock in a decent time when successful off an official rating of 117 at Plumpton last time and is only 5lb higher here.
Chepstow 2.10 The fitness of Ask Dillon needs to be taken on trust on his first start since last April, but Fergal O’Brien thought highly enough of his six-year-old to run him in the Ballymore Novice Hurdle back in March and O’Brien has his string in excellent form at present.
Kempton Park 2.30 Sceau Royal and Duc Des Genievres are regulars at Grade One level but Capeland put up a career-best in a handicap at Ascot last time and may have turned a corner.
Kempton Park 3.05 Sametegal had been off the track for 665 days before running second to a well-handicapper opponent in a valuable chase at Newbury last month. He is only 4lb higher here and has won off a higher mark in the past.