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Saphir Du Rheu to silence Whisper in Welsh Champion Hurdle

Saphir Du Rheu is one of the most improved horses in training having been raised two stone since his Sandown victory in December. The Paul Nicholls-trained grey defied a 15lbs rise to win the valuable Lanzarote Handicap Hurdle at Kempton last time out.

He was partnered by Harry Derham who took off a handy 5lbs and the pair are re-united for the Welsh Champion Hurdle today. Nicky Henderson was in good form yesterday with a treble and he saddles the main danger in Whisper.

The French-bred six-year-old won by seven lengths at Newbury in December and has a 7lbs increase to face here. That wasn’t the strongest race in the world and he could be vulnerable to Saphir Du Rheu’s finishing kick.

Colin Tizzard is hopeful of a bold run from Grand Vision who finished second to Uncle Jimmy at Warwick recently. Conditions were similarly testing that day and he races off the same mark here.

Welsh National winner Mountainous bids to follow up in the West Wales National at 2.40. Richard Lee’s gelding produced a career-best effort to hold off Hawkes Point and Tidal Bay in the Chepstow marathon.

He is also up a further 7lbs and that tough race can sometimes leave its mark. Jonjo O’Neill’s Smoking Aces put up a fair effort when second at Plumpton in similar conditions last time and Alfie Spinner has been running consistently for Nick Williams.

There was nothing wrong with Alfie Spinner’s effort when a close fourth behind There’s No Panic at Sandown in December and he met an improving horse in Mendip Express at Cheltenham last time. Twice a winner in heavy ground, Alfie Spinner is likely to be up with the pace throughout and should be in the money.

There is also a good case to be made for De La Bech who is weighted to beat Mountainous on their previous meeting. However, he ran no sort of race when a remote sixth at Cheltenham and has ground to make up on Alfie Spinner.

Selections: 1.30 Bar A Mine, 2.05 Saphir Du Rheu (NAP), 2.40 Alfie Spinner (nb), 3.10 Tony Dinozzo, 3.45 Scales, 4.20 Copper Birch, 4.50 Obistar