Pipe is only a 7-2 chance with the sponsors to saddle a remarkable 1-2-3 in the main event, which he has taken three times in the last four years. Not since Michael Dickinson trained the first five home in the Gold Cup at Cheltenham in 1983 has a trainer seemed closer to pulling off a similar feat, even in a lesser contest like this.
Run For Free has been the best backed of Pipe's Welsh National team and should beat Bonanza Boy and Riverside Boy. But he is vulnerable to two classier stablemates, Miinnehoma and Chatam. The former is a Gold Cup prospect and wears blinkers for the first time, but it is Chatam (2.00), last year's 'Hennessy' winner, who can stamp his own Gold Cup claims.
Captain Dibble, trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies, is the one most likely to elbow his way into the frame and disrupt a Pipe procession.
If either Miinnehoma or Chatam slog home first, their young riders, Jonothan Lower and Michael Hourigan, last year's top amateur, will have Peter Scudamore to thank. The champion significantly misses the best opportunity to close the gap on his jockeys' title rival Richard Dunwoody - currently 17 ahead. Instead of being tempted by strength in numbers at Chepstow, Scudamore heads for Kempton, principally to partner Pipe's Granville Again in the Christmas Hurdle, the day's most valuable contest.
Scudamore has a point to prove, having described Granville Again as 'the best I've ever sat on'. The gelding has yet to live up to that description this season, having been beaten twice, and the rider may have cause to regret his loyalty, because Granville Again must take on not only Dunwoody's mount, the improving Mighty Mogul, but the Jamie Osborne-ridden Flown (2.20). The latter has been waiting for today's drying ground and will prove hard to catch round this track.
Dunwoody has treble prospects on Wonder Man (1.15), For The Grain (1.45) and Duntree (2.50), but Scudamore can limit the damage in the last race with Montebel (next best, 3.20), expected to step up on last season's four juvenile hurdle wins.
Back at Chepstow, the David Barons yard can confirm a return to form with MUSICAL MONARCH (nap, 3.35). This six-year- old course winner needed his comeback race three weeks yet still beat a good field.
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