The vast majority of horses to have won the Coral Welsh National in testing conditions carried a low weight – hence the unrelenting support for Saturday’s favourite Secret Reprieve – but, every now and again, good ones win it with more, and Lord Du Mesnil fits that bill.
Chepstow must pass an 8am inspection, and under the covers the ground is bound to be pretty horrible, but those are conditions in which Richard Hobson’s eight-year-old thrives, getting into a relentless rhythm in or near the front.
Last season, he won three novice chases in the heavy and soft before finishing a close second to Smooth Stepper in the Haydock National Trial and 2¼ lengths behind Ravenhill in the National Hunt Chase. Native River, it should be noted, was runner-up in the same race before winning the 2016 Welsh National and 2018 Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Lord Du Mesnil may not be in that class, but he is a good horse and his regular rider Paul O’Brien’s 3lb claim takes his weight down to a manageable 11st 2lb. “He carries weight all right,” said Hobson. “He carries me every day!”
The Grand National is his long-term plan, which is why he ran in the Grand Sefton at Aintree last time. That was a mile too short for him and he was rushed off his feet, but there was method in Hobson’s plan; he did not want to “bottom” him before the Welsh National.
“He’s a very good horse,” added the Stow-on-the-Wold trainer. “He’s a bit quirky, he likes to dictate up front. He has the pace to go with Yala Enki and there might be a couple of others wanting to make it, but if he gets into a nice rhythm, with his action in those conditions horses can’t live with him. I’d be disappointed if he wasn’t in the vanguard early. He’s in great order.”
Last year, Truckers Tavern, Yala Enki, Prime Venture and The Two Amigos all chased Potters Corner home and they will all get similar conditions on race day, while Secret Reprieve, with just a 4lb penalty for his trial win, has to be respected.
Nassalam has won his two starts at Fontwell since joining Gary Moore from France by an aggregate of more than 100 lengths. He may not have beaten much, but nevertheless he looks an exciting four-year-old and should be hard to beat in the Coral Finale Juvenile Hurdle, one of the starter courses for the Welsh National.
McFabulous did not quite get home in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury behind Thyme Hill and Paisley Park so the trip in the rescheduled Dornan Engineering Relkeel Hurdle at Kempton, proving the course passes its 8am inspection, should suit him ideally.