Betfair Ambassador Paul Nicholls discusses the chances of his runners on the first Saturday racing of 2018 at Chepstow, Sandown and Wincanton.
"Loves soft or heavy ground, has won plenty of races and I've felt for a long time that this annual marathon might suit Silsol who came back into training this summer after missing a season with a tendon injury."
14:05 - Vicente
While ground conditions at Chepstow are not ideal for Vicente, I was encouraged by the way he coped with testing going at Cheltenham when staying on strongly to be second to Perfect Candidate seven weeks ago.
It is not that he can't handle heavy going, more that he doesn't jump so fluently out of it. Vicente finished a respectable sixth in this a year ago but has to give weight to all his opponents this time which isn't ideal.
But he has earned his mark if 151 after winning his second Scottish National and, although I expect him to run well, I'd say there are several others in the race who are better handicapped than him. So I can't be too confident about his chance.
14:05 - Silsol
Loves soft or heavy ground, has won plenty of races and I've felt for a long time that this annual marathon might suit Silsol who came back into training this summer after missing a season with a tendon injury. He badly needed his first run over hurdles at Haydock in November and has come on a lot for it as I hoped and expected.
As his jumping over fences in the past hasn't always been the best I'm trying him in blinkers which have definitely helped him over hurdles.
Silsol is a horse who stays forever and, with his in-form jockey Bryony Frost claiming a useful five pounds, it wouldn't surprise me to see him outrun his odds if the blinkers work.
14:25 - Mont Des Avaloirs
A promising, scopey type who showed a great attitude to grind out a victory in deep ground at Aintree a month ago after being headed between the last two flights.
That win came as timely compensation after Mont Des Avaloirs was unlucky to come down at the last hurdle when he was hacking up at Wincanton. Kilbricken Storm, who was left clear that day, has since franked the form in both his subsequent starts.
This Class 1 race is much tougher for Mont Des Avaloirs but he is going the right way, will handle the conditions, and has earned a crack at a decent prize.
14:40 - Antarctica De Thais
I've been keeping Antarctica De Thaix for a valuable Mares' race at Doncaster which was re-scheduled for next Tuesday when the original meeting was called off. This is a tempting alternative for her, however, as it looks as though only four will run with two others likely to switch to Chepstow.
We know Antarctica De Thaix is suited by a flat track like Wincanton as she won there last season and also tipped up at the course when set for another victory. She's in good form at home and I'm leaving off the hood she usually wears because she relaxed much better last time when she was second to Mia's Storm at Market Rasen.
I'll check the ground when I get to Wincanton in the morning before making a decision but I'd say she is more likely to run than not and has a sound chance.
15:15 - Bill and Barn
Had several entries over the weekend but I was keen to run him in this as he jumps fences brilliantly at home and looks to have a big chance against four opponents.
Bill and Barn took time to get the hang of things this season before showing a fair bit of improvement to dead heat with an odds-on shot in a three mile novice hurdle in the mud at Chepstow four weeks ago. He was due to start over fences there in novice handicap chase on December 27 until the meeting was called off.
Bill and Barn was a useful point-to-pointer before joining us, seems to relish soft or heavy ground, is progressive, stays very well and was always going to be a chaser. So there are lots of positives for him in this.