AFTER a brilliant end to 2015 Graeme Johnston (@GraemeJ_83) is back with some brilliant racing bets for Saturday.
13:45 Chepstow | Channel 4
The Welsh Grand National rescheduled from late December due to a waterlogged track is the highlight of the Welsh racing year and it's going to be a real war of attrition in really heavy ground. Run over 3 miles and 6 furlongs it's a real test for any staying chaser but tomorrow's race will be a real slog.
Black Thunder from the Paul Nichols yard is the class act of the field carrying top weight here and a victory here would be one of the most impressive weight carrying performances in years. He has young claimer Harry Cobden taking 7 lbs off his back but I'm still against him here.
We have two previous winners lining up here also in Mountainous and Emporer's Choice. Emporer's Choice won by a short head last year nailing long time leader Benvolio on the line in heart breaking style. He won his only race since in November and comes here in good form but this looks a better renewal than the race he won and I'm taking him on.
Mountainous is now 11 and hasn't won since taking this race two years ago. He carries a light weight here and though he will appreciate the ground and the course he is likely to struggle here.
Upswing comes here as favourite for this after his solid second last time at Cheltenham where he had two of his main market rivals here behind him. They are Cogry and Shotgun Paddy and there doesn't look like there is a lot between the three of them. However they all encounter vastly different conditions here and this will be much more of a stamina test than it was a Cheltenham.
Of the three I have a feeling that Cogry may come out on top as he doesn't do anything quickly and he was still in contention in the Scottish Grand National when falling late on. He also handles heavy ground and in his four races on ground classed as heavy he has won two and has a second and third to his name. He looks a progressive young stayer and with five places on offer here from some firms I make him a cracking each way bet.
14:00 Kempton | Channel 4
The William Hill Chase has attracted a field of just three runners and at first glance this looks at the mercy of Ptit Zig. The highest rated runner in the field he looked a class act earlier in the season but his last run along with stable form has made me question his credentials.
I really like Ptit Zig. He won on his seasonal debut at Down Royal in really taking fashion and I seen him as a horse to follow. Next time out he took on Vatour, and despite a few sketchy jumps combined with the fact he was conceding weight to the winner he put up a career best effort coming second.
However last time out he looked flat. His jumping wasn't fluent and after a few sloppy jumps he made a shocking error at the last and suffered a crashing fall when he looked beat. He is at his best when fresh and I out have to question whether on his fourth start in as many months after a bone crushing fall is going to see him at his best. Added in to this his stable is struggling for winners and I'm not prepared to back him at odds on here.
So this leaves us with two options. Wishful Thinking is another horse I like a lot and this popular veteran is showing incredible longevity to be competitive at this level in his thirteenth year. He was in the same race as Ptit Zig last time out where he put in an electric front running performance for the first circuit before hitting a brick wall three out. If he is ridden with a bit more restraint this time he may trouble the favourite but I'm not backing him either.
This leaves us with Triolo D'Alene. We've not seen him for just over a year but at his best he would have a very good chance. In 2014 he lined up in the Gold Cup and Grand National and though he disappointed in both he started at 10/1 and 16/1 respectively which shows he was no back number.
Though his British form indicates he wants better ground he has winning form on heavy in France and his stamina could prove invaluable here. His stable has a superb record at bringing older horses back from injuries in prime condition (Sprinter Sacre, Bob's Worth) and if he is fit to do himself justice he has a major chance here. He's also receiving 10lbs from his two rivals, and in heavy ground over a distance that stretches his rivals I see him as value at 8/1 in this race.
13:45 Chepstow – Cogry each way (8/1 Bet365)
14:00 Kempton – Triolo D'Alene to win (8/1 888 Sport)
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