You know what happens when the going gets tough, and there are no reservations on that front about the favourite for the big race at Chepstow today.
When Synchronised won at Uttoxeter last spring, over four miles-plus in heavy ground, no fewer than 13 of his 16 rivals were pulled up, exhausted. Funnily enough, the only one who could give him a battle was L'Aventure, herself a previous winner of the Coral Welsh National, so it's pretty clear that he should be equal to the demands made by the same race today.
Conditions will be so taxing that they might as well have staged it as originally scheduled, just after Christmas, when Monmouthshire was under a foot of snow. Quite apart from his proven aptitude for this kind of examination, however, Synchronised looks a pretty solid bet at 9-2. He is far less exposed than most of these, having contested only four races over fences. Raised 7lb for Uttoxeter, he remains entitled to significant progress and his trainer, Jonjo O'Neill, has artfully preserved his mark with today in mind, instead giving him a couple of spins over hurdles. Primed for a career best, Synchronised (1.45 Chepstow) can redress one of the few remaining omissions in his rider Tony McCoy's CV.
Admittedly, inexperience could still come through in his jumping, so those looking for an alternative at bigger odds are warmly recommended I'moncloudnine at 20-1. Trained by one of the sport's brightest young talents in Neil Mulholland, he was still tanking along when unseating his rider at the Canal Turn in the Becher Chase last time. He had previously looked uncomfortable on fast ground round Wincanton, but an excellent effort on his comeback had suggested that he had further improvement in him – perhaps when, as now, given a severe test of stamina.
BBC viewers will have to be warned not to adjust their sets, on discovering horseracing on their screens. They might even want to see a bit more if they proceed to back a well handicapped, unexposed chaser in Prince De Beauchene (2.20 Chepstow). At his best in these conditions, he ran creditably enough on a dead surface at Newbury last time, but the way he had jumped and travelled on his reappearance left little doubt that this represents his optimum test.
Channel 4 reliably has cameras at Wincanton and Sandown, where the 32Red Tolworth Hurdle as usual concerns quality rather than quantity. This may come soon enough for Megastar, a little disappointing when emerging from the fog at Newbury 10 days ago, and Minella Class (2.40 Sandown) looks a very smart prospect himself.
Leo's Lucky Star (3.15 Sandown) gave a top novice a real fright at Exeter last month and, having taken his time to warm to fences, remains ahead of his revised mark.
One of the most valuable handicap hurdles of the season is, meanwhile, staged at Leopardstown tomorrow. Nowadays knows as the MCR Hurdle, it remains unchangingly competitive, and while Prima Vista impressed at the Christmas meeting here, he has had little time to regroup for a tougher task off a 15lb higher mark.
Call The Police (2.25 Leopardstown tomorrow) is highly intriguing on his first start for Willie Mullins, having landed a gamble at the expense of several subsequent winners in a bumper in 2009. Returning from a long absence, and totally unexposed over hurdles, he has presumably been showing the champion trainer something to warrant resuming in this company.
Mille Chief (3.45 Sandown)
Though raised 9lb for second at Ascot last time, he was the only one able to live with one of the best handicapped horses in the land. Drew 11 lengths clear of pack and, after just four completed starts, can give fresh substance to a big reputation.
The Minack (2.25 Wincanton)
Long a chaser in the making, and sensibly not asked to overdo things over hurdles last term. This debut over fences is the day connections have been waiting for.
One to watch
Tatispout (Charlie Longsdon) has had a curious career since arriving from France, starting off in the Triumph Hurdle, but is piecing things together now judged on her display at Huntingdon this week, set plenty to do behind a useful type but closing readily for third.
Where the money's going
Time For Rupert is 3-1 from 7-2 with Paddy Power for the RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
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