Grey promises brighter days for McCain

Steve Hughes has Saturday selections from Chepstow and Kempton on a day for stamina laden horses

At the second attempt Chepstow looks set to get the go ahead despite the elements for their big Welsh National meeting, the highlight of the year at the Welsh track. I am having two stabs at the big race, but the best bet looks to be later on the card. I also have one for the big betting race at Kempton. Arctic Gold was a winning headline selection for us in the previous column on Monday (advised 11/4).

Chepstow 1.10: Captainofindustry

Already a winner over this 3m trip, and so narrowly beaten on heavy ground at Ffos Last last time, Captainofindustry can win on his first attempt at running over 3m on heavy going combined.

Everything about him has suggested this lazy sort wants an extreme test of stamina and with very little weight to carry in this testing ground he gets an ideal situation to prove that today. He was probably beaten by hitting the front too soon at Ffos Las last time, idling and allowing Pobbles Bay to get up in sight of the post.

Given a slightly more patient ride, Captainofindustry is clearly on a fair mark at present and showed he stays 3m when winning at Taunton on his previous run, providing a first winner over obstacles for Mark Pitman on his return to the training ranks having been effectively retired for the best part of ten years. Having raced only seven times, he is very much unexposed, but should be at the height of his powers now having turned 7yo.

Chepstow 1.45: Bob Ford & Upswing

An unusually early start time for the feature to try and ensure the race is run on the best ground possible. However there are any number of horses proven in extremely testing conditions.

Bob Ford effectively ran the others into submission when landing the West Wales National at Ffos Las last February, in a race run in conditions every bit as gruelling as today’s will be. Something of an all or nothing horse, he seems to either win or pull up. That is in no small part to his requirement to need to make all the running and he was able to do so on his return to the track this season at Bangor last month, again on heavy going. The handicapper reacted by putting him up 11lbs, but because this is an early closing race he is effectively 7lbs well in with a 4lb penalty. Last year’s renewal was notable for the fact that Benvolio and Emperors Choice fought out the finish having shared the pace throughout and Bob Ford is well capable of using those tactics to maximum effect if he is on a going day.

If there is a horse with the potential to improve on what he has already shown over fences it is surely Upswing who is yet to really show his hand over the big fences. Two seasons ago he was very progressive over hurdles including a win in a valuable Newbury contest on atrocious going. For whatever reason he was not in the same form last season, including a single run over fences. Kept back as a novice for this season he gained confidence running in two novice races on better going in the autumn, including a 6l win at Worcester in October. The benefit of that was clearly visible when running so well into second at Cheltenham over 3m3f last time. He has jumped well so far and a return to heavy going could bring about further improvement today.

Kempton 2.35: Yala Enki

A smaller than normal field for the Lanzarote and that could provide an opportunity for the front-running Yala Enki to make all.

Consistent, but with a low strike rate in his native France, Yala Enki already looks like making a better hurdler in Britain with Venetia Williams. A narrow second at Uttoxeter on his one run for the yard last season, he impressed when staying well clear of his rivals at Exeter in November, beating Duke Des Champs by 16l. That rival has since won and been beaten in a photo in two runs, so the form has been well and truly franked.

He was not disgraced when fifth last time in the Fixed Brush hurdle at Haydock , but faced a fierce battle for the lead throughout that softened him up. A smaller field ought to mean he gets an easier time in front and with only 9-12 to carry in testing conditions that will be a big advantage too. Young jockey Charlie Deutsch impressed when stealing a race on the yard’s Aachen at Cheltenham last month and a similar ride today could prove just the ticket.

Chepstow 2.55: Subtle Grey

Slowly but surely trainer Donald McCain seems to be recovering from the shock of losing the horses of his principal owner Paul Rooney to other stables in the autumn and in Subtle Grey he has a horse with the potential to take him back to the big meetings in the future.

He looks a likely type for Nationals in the future, being a bold jumping front runner who stays forever, but with only two chases under rules to his name to date, he is rightly being kept to novice contests for now. He showed his initial chasing mark of 124 to be inadequate when making all at Carlisle last time on a day when they miraculously managed to get racing on at the track despite all the floods in the area.

He should find even more improvement over 3m and won in very testing ground over that trip in a hurdles race at Uttoxeter last winter. He tended to race lazily over hurdles, but chasing seems to have woken him up and he was both keen and really able to battle under pressure at Carlisle. Therefore further improvement seems inevitable especially as the handicapper has been kind enough to raise him only 2lbs for that gutsy win last time.

Recommended bets:

1pt each-way- Captainofindustry – Chepstow 1.10 – 6/1 general

1pt win – Bob Ford – Chepstow 1.45 – 16/1 Bet365, Boylesports, Stan James

1pt each-way – Upswing – Chepstow 1.45 – 10/1 general

1pt win – Yala Enki – Kempton 2.35 – 9/2 general

1pt win – Subtle Grey – Chepstow 2.55 – 4/1 Totesport, Betfred

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