Heavy going should suit Azzurri at Wincanton

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Welsh National winner Native River was a notable absentee when the 110 entries for the 2017 Randox Health Grand National were announced on Wednesday with the weights being unveiled at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London at an evening function to be held on Tuesday 14th February.

Last year’s runner up The Last Samurai and Don Poli are the 16/1 joint favourites with BetVictor although I was very taken with the Warwick win of One For Arthur (20/1 at BetVictor) whose jumping improved as the race developed over the National fences in the Becher Chase on his penultimate start.

The ground is heavy at Wincanton for Thursday’s card and this sharp track should suit Azzurri (1.25) who is highly regarded by the Dan Skelton yard and can give them a welcome winner given the stable have had a number of reverses in recent days.

Not Never is entitled to improve on his first start over timber at Plumpton and is considered the danger – it will be interesting to see if the market suggests he will cope with underfoot conditions.

Paul Nicholls is another whose string could not be described as being in top form but there is a possibility that Copain De Classe (3.10) has been let in lightly from his opening handicap mark.

The selection scored at Chepstow when last seen back in November, and is very much an embryonic chaser, but he should be well served by today’s underfoot conditions and he can foil the hat-trick seeking Space Oddity who may find the ground too deep.

The handicapper has dropped Ballygarvey (3.45) 4lbs for his reappearance at a foggy Huntingdon but that run should have blown the cobwebs away and Tom O’Brien takes over in the saddle this afternoon. Dusky Lark has his first start for Robert Walford and is a danger, as is Vic De Touzaine who makes his belated seasonal reappearance under Tom Scudamore.

At Towcester, What A Diva (2.45) is only 4lbs higher than when scoring at Market Rasen last time and she promises to be more effective stepped back up to this 3m trip for the father and son combination of Peter and Sean Bowen.

This will be a severe test of stamina for the mare carrying 11st 11lbs in deep ground but she remains open to improvement and looks sure to run well.

Shanann Star (3.55) has been raised 5lbs for finishing third at Wincanton on another day when race reading was limited due to the fog which enveloped the track.

The mare appeared to be running on better than any when a close third on that occasion and the booking of leading conditional Harry Cobden is a positive.

At Clonmel, I hope to see Monalee (2.25) win the Grade 3 Novice Hurdle for Henry De Bromhead whose string have been in such good form of late.

The selection looked a thorough stayer when brushed aside by the smart Death Duty at Navan last time and on a line through the Gordon Elliot horse, he can get the better of Willie Mullins’ Turcagua with the step up in distance considered a plus.

At Meydan, Sanshaawes (5.25) looked to be coming to hand when third over today’s C&D last time and this three-time carnival handicap winner is only 2lbs higher than when scoring last January.

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