Welsh National Sensation

MINI SENSATION rose to the occasion to land a gamble in the Coral Welsh National at Chepstow yesterday.

The 8-1 chance has more bad days than good, according to his trainer Jonjo O'Neill.

But even the modestly-spoken O'Neill agreed that this had been "a great day" for his charge in the £75,000 mud-splattered thriller.

Available at 25-1 only days earlier in the ante-post betting, the winner led approaching the final fence and flew it under Tony Dobbin to pull clear from Chives.

The runner-up, who was attempting to give an enormous 22lb to the winner, ran a sensational race to finish just seven lengths behind in conditions that were testing, even by the standards of this annual slog through the mud.

Indeed it was only after an inspection that the meeting got the go-ahead hours before the action was due to start.

Chives (10-1) finished 13 lengths ahead of 5-2 favourite Gunner Welburn, who led at the 14th of the 22 fences but faded after the last.

Frosty Canyon (20-1) was fourth with only seven of the 17 starters completing the course.

O'Neill has enjoyed rollercoaster fortunes in recent weeks that have seen him handed two hefty fines under the "non-triers"' rules.

But there were only smiles in the winner's enclosure after Mini Sensation had landed the spoils.

"I wanted a jockey who knew him because he can be funny to ride," said O'Neill.

"Tony fitted the bill and gave him a great ride.

"Sometimes he can take half an hour to get going but I was delighted with the way he jumped today.

"He just loves this ground. It can't be too soft for him.

"Tony got him flowing and jumping and he was always going well."

The winner is quoted at 25-1 by Coral for the Martell Grand National.

But it is the Tote Gold Cup that Henrietta Knight is eyeing for Chives after his splendid weight-carrying performance.

And only 24 hours after his stablemate Best Mate cemented his place at the head of the betting for chasing's blue riband prize which he won last year, Knight revealed that she felt Chives was capable of giving his stablemate a scare if conditions were suitable.

"If it was soft in the Gold Cup then he would nearly beat Best Mate," she said. "This horse is Gold Cup class and I mean that.

"He conceded almost two stone to the winner in bottomless ground. It is the ground that is the key to him he loves it.

"He will probably have a race somewhere between now and Cheltenham, possibly the De Vere Gold Cup at Haydock. He could go for the Grand National after that."

Hopes that Ian Balding could enjoy a big-race winner before he officially retires from training on January 1 were sadly scuppered as Gunner Welburn was outstayed close home.

Nas Na Riogh took a remarkable contest for the Western Daily Press Finale Juvenile Hurdle.

Well-backed 100-30 chance Lewis Island set off at a tremendous pace under Carl Llewellyn and by the halfway stage of the two-mile contest was some 25 lengths clear of his seven rivals.Eventually and predictably, the colt started to tire and by the second-last flight, both the winner and Le Duc had gone past and were contesting the lead. But horses such as Fast Mix and Guillaume Macaire's pair, Lougaroo and Lilium de Cotte, were totally unable to keep up with the relentless gallop and finished spread out over Gwent.

Le Duc crashed out at the final flight to leave the winner clear to saunter home by 11 lengths.

Tony McCoy continued his seemingly-irrepressible charge up towards new heights with a double as Claymore took the Ray Horton Memorial Chase and Control Man claimed the Galaxy 101 Championship Bumper.

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