Chepstow stages racing under both codes all year round. It has around 32 fixtures most years and whilst the action on the flat is generally low grade, the National Hunt racing at the course is of a much higher standard. The course is associated closely with the Welsh Grand National run the day after Boxing Day and the Grade 1 Finale Juvenile Hurdle also takes place on the same card. The track has a second key fixture in October which sees the Persian War Novices’ Hurdle and the Silver Trophy Handicap Hurdle take place.
Chepstow is one of three racecourses in Wales but the only one to have a Grade 1 race on the calendar. It is situated just north of the town of the same name and lies on the A466 Chepstow to Monmouth road. The opening of the Severn Bridge, which has been toll free since December 2018, and the construction of the M4 motorway made the accessibility to the course much easier for racegoers, especially those travelling from England. This has dramatically boosted attendances at key fixtures over the years.
The flat racing at the course, and most would agree, is not the type that is going to throw up any Classic contenders. It is generally competitive though and entertaining enough to those visiting the course or watching on TV. The stats show that the average price of winners that are not favourites here is 8/1. This means Chepstow on the flat has more than its fair share of outsiders winning races.
A second statistic is worth noting for those who play the winning distance markets, the average winning distance is 1.8 lengths. This means the course has as many wide margin winners as it does tight finishes, which could be food for thought if betting on related markets.
Chepstow Flat Course
The flat course at Chepstow is left-handed and basically oval in shape. It is just under two miles to a circuit and has a four and a half furlong run-in. There is also a straight mile flat course which is used for all races up to and including one mile.
Chepstow is seriously undulating. It is impossible to emphasise enough how much horses constantly change from going uphill to dipping downhill. If you were to stand at the winning line and look down the track, it would resemble the ocean with large waves and swells; that is why Chepstow is seen by many as a specialist track. This is also the reason you need a well-balanced horse to win here and not one that gets discouraged or thrown off its stride easily. The undulations here tend to suit front runners and the draw bias, due to the going changing often, is generally inconclusive.
Chepstow Jumps Course
The hurdles course here has a circuit of just under two miles (1m7f). Once again, the key word is undulating. There are seven flights taken per circuit, four down the back and three in the home straight. The hurdles are well spread out and with lots of open space, which means there is lots of room for horses to get into good positions.
Stamina is key here. Horses on the hurdles course can be dropped out and slowly make headway in to the straight before pouncing late on. Lots of races here change on the long run in after the final flight has been taken. In recent years, horses trained by Paul Nicholls have boasted a healthy strike rate.
The chase course demands a lot of respect and requires a horse that is impeccable over the larger obstacles. Once again, just under two miles round, there are 11 fences to a circuit. The home straight here is five furlongs and there are no fewer than five fences on this part of the course.
Course form here is a big advantage. Jumping soundly and staying well are other strong attributes that horses have that win round here. The fourth last fence, the second as you enter the straight is an open ditch and can really test a horse’s jumping ability. An error here can cost you dearly. Only the strongest in the equine field manage to win at Chepstow.
Welsh Grand National
The Welsh Grand National has been the feature race on the calendar since it returned to the course in 1949, just after the war. The race has built up a strong connection with bookmakers Coral over the years as the company has sponsored the race since 1972 and has made it one of their own annual flagship races. Ex-racehorse trainer and jockey David Nicholson won three consecutive Welsh Nationals in 1959, 1960 and 1961, a feat which has so far never been repeated.
The Grade 3 race itself is a handicap and run over three and three quarter miles. There is a total of 23 fences to be jumped and It is also often run in extremely testing conditions. The race generally attracts the sort of horses that will later in the year be heading to the more famous Aintree equivalent but under much different circumstances.
The trends of this race highlight that chase form is key. The last 12 winners of this race include 10 runners who had had at least one run at Chepstow; 11 of the last 12 winners had run in the previous 49 days; and nine of the 12 had run a race over this trip or further. In summary, you need to be fit, stay well and have Chepstow experience based on recent trends.