… and a happy new year to all readers of the blog.  It’s a bit belated – I took to my bed early on Christmas Eve with a bad case of flu.  Will 2009 be a better year than 2008 or will it just be a hideous year of social unrest?  Is the world a better place for the events of 2008?  Who will win the Welsh National?  Berts Blog, the blog that touches the parts that other blogs cannot reach, will answer all of these tough questions, starting with the toughest one.

Anyone who watched the 1991 Welsh National will never forget it.  It doesn’t count as a great race as such as the winner surged clear early and won in a canter, galloping the rest of them into the ground despite carrying top weight.  The pace, on decent (G/S) racing ground, was so incredibly sapping that only six of the seventeen starters finished.  As a performance it ranks among the best of all time in most lists.

Carvill’s Hill was trained by Martin Pipe when he ran at Chepstow, but for most of his life he was trained in Ireland by Jim Dreaper.  Dreaper has very few runners in the UK – only three in the last five years.  Today he runs Notre Pere in the Welsh National, a horse he describes as hardy and intelligent and one who “wants a slog”.  It will be a slog today for sure.  NP is a proven weight carrier and he’s held his form well in the past – in his two previous racing seasons he’s followed up his opening win with another.  He feels like a respectable selection.

I normally like the juvenile at Chepstow as a betting heat.  I’ve decided to side with  Pepite de Soleil.  It’s a short price to be taking (getting longer all the time), but she gets weight from the field and looks straightforward.  Paul Nicholls has another hotpot in the novice chase at Kempton – Oumeyade is ridden by A P McCoy.  I don’t like the short price – I’d be inclined to oppose with Deep Purple, although I’ll probably just watch.  My main betting interest will be with Starluck at Kempton, who I will continue to back until he is beaten.  He might be special.