Welsh Grand National (Chepstow) Betting Tips & Predictions – Thursday 27th December 2018

The Welsh Grand National is not for the faint-hearted. The runners involved must cover more than 3m 5f of Chepstow’s undulating and usually very challenging ground. While undoubtedly a test of stamina, jumping ability also plays a big part with 22 fences to be cleared.

Such is the gruelling nature of the race that during last year’s renewal, only 7 of the 20 runners made it all the way to finishing post. Completing the race won’t be enough of an achievement for Vintage Clouds though as the eight-year-old has the ability to claim victory this Thursday.

Top Tips

Vintage Clouds @ 8/1

Vieux Lion Rouge EW@ 14/1

Odds correct at time of writing but may have changed since. Check site for latest prices.

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Race Info

Having improved in standard over the past few decades, this testing race can be a useful guide for both the Aintree Grand National and Cheltenham Gold Cup. Raz de Maree is among the entries this year as he attempts to become the first horse since Bonanza Boy in 1989 to successfully win this race back to back.

GoingDistanceClassPrize MoneyRunnersEW Terms
Soft 3m 5f 110y 1 £150,000 31 (Max 20) 1/4 1-4

Recent Winners

In such a long race, carrying a low amount of weight has unsurprisingly proven to be a distinct advantage. Only three of the last 15 Welsh National winners won with 11st or more on their backs.

Although favourites haven’t fared too well (two wins from the last 15) the odds on the winning horse haven’t been that high considering this race regular runs at full capacity. The average SP of the horse first past the post since 2003 has been 10/1, much lower than the Aintree showpiece average.

YearWinnerSPTrainerJockey
2017 Raz De Maree 16/1 Gavin Cromwell James Bowen
2016 Native River 11/4 Colin Tizzard Richard Johnson
2015 Mountainous 9/1 Kerry Lee Richard Johnson
2014 Emperor’s Choice 9/1 Venetia Williams Aidan Coleman
2013 Mountainous 20/1 Richard Lee Paul Molone

Analysis: David Pipe hoping to follow in father’s footsteps

No trainer has enjoyed more success in this racing during the modern era than Martin Pipe. The now-retired trainer saddled the winner on five occasions between 1989 and 1993, a period of dominance unlikely to be matched for a long time. While he’s no longer able to add to his total, his son is keen to continue his success.

David Pipe has two strong entries here, the third favourite Ramses De Teillee and the Becher Chase runner-up Vieux Lion Rouge. Neither horse are entered elsewhere during the festive period so there’s every chance they’ll feature this Thursday. Pipe had to make do with 6th place last year but he’ll be confident of an improved result this time around.

Elegant Escape heads the field

Elegant Escape makes a decent claim here but not quite enough to justify his 6/1 price tag. The six-year-old won at Sandown at the start of the season but it was a display littered with errors. He jumped awkwardly on the last fence when at Newbury too when forced to dig deep. Having not run further than 3m 1f before, he’ll likely tire in this race and this could see him struggle to leap over the final few obstacles.

Ramses De Teillee stamina a concern

David Pipe had admitted that he’s unsure if Ramses De Teillee has the legs to last the distance on Thursday. There are no concerns with the gelding’s shape or the course after an excellent win at Chepstow earlier in the month but this upcoming test is six furlongs longer. He’s yet to win a race at three miles or more so a win here would break the overwhelmingly strong distance trend in this race. With soft going expected at Chepstow too, the six-year-old may run out of steam before the line.

Distance no sweat for Vieux Lion Rouge

You may remember Vieux Lion Rogue from the most recent edition of the Aintree Grand National. The nine-year-old finished a respectable ninth, three places further down than he managed the year before. This is not a sign of decline however as the chestnut horse improved on last year’s seventh in the Becher Chase to finish second this time around. He didn’t tail off towards the end of the 3m 2f test and as usual looked comfortable over the fences.

Vintage Clouds set for Chepstow over Wetherby

Although Vintage Clouds is also entered in a Boxing Day test at Wetherby, Sue Smith will surely be more persuaded by another crack at this race. Her eight-year-old has bags of stamina which he showed during his third place finish in the Scottish equivalent of this race last April. A month prior to this he dealt with heavy conditions to secure another placed finish in the Ultima Handicap Chase. His weight of 11st 4lbs reflects his ability but it’s not a mark he’ll find impossible to overcome.

Final Verdict: Vintage Clouds to win

After winning or placing in his last seven starts, Vintage Clouds stands a fantastic chance of being crowned Welsh Grand National champion. He finished fourth last year but conditions weren’t ideal and he was hampered towards the end of the contest. Racing only three pounds heavier this time, Sue Smith’s horse is the one to back here.

About The Welsh Grand National

Chepstow Racecourse
Louise Rea at Chepstow Racecourse, Wikimedia Commons

The variety of races that form the National Hunt season is one of keys to its strength. Racing fans all have their own favourite types of racing whether it’s minimum distance chases, staying hurdles or top class juvenile contests giving a glimpse into the future.

No other type of racing quite catches the attention of the wider public than big field, long distance handicaps. The Grand National at Aintree is the obvious example but there are many similar races during the season including the Welsh Grand National.

The Welsh Grand National is scheduled to take place at Chepstow Racecourse each year on the day after Boxing Day. It’s held a few different slots in the racing calendar since being introduced back in 1895 including on Easter Tuesday and in February but this Grade 3 steeplechase has really grown in terms of popularity since being moved to the festive period.

Disruptions Due to Bad Weather

The current scheduling makes the Welsh Grand National a more attractive proposition for connections of horses in with a chance of winning even more prestigious staying chases including the Grand National and even the Cheltenham Gold Cup. There is a down side to the decision though as the ground at Chepstow has fallen foul of waterlogging on multiple occasions in recent years forcing the race’s postponement.

  • 2010 race held in 2011 due to snow and frost
  • 2012 running was held in 2013 due to waterlogging
  • 2015 Welsh National was run in 2016 due to waterlogging
  • 2017 race was moved to 2018, again due to a waterlogged course

In addition to the four years above, the Welsh National was also abandoned entirely in 1995 and 1996 due to frost. Looking back earlier we can see more disruption, with snow, frost or excess rain causing four abandonments between 1969 and 1978.

A Test of Stamina

The event organisers clearly believe that it’s worth the risk of unsuitable conditions due to the increase in the calibre of horses competing in Welsh Grand National. Specifically, the race attracts entries for horses with bags and bags of stamina. It takes place over 3 miles 5½ furlongs, includes 22 fences and is almost always held on heavy ground. Throw in some relatively severe undulations and you have one of the toughest tests of stamina around.

Proven stamina is of course vital when looking for a winning bet for the Welsh Grand National but you cannot write off the class angle. Since 2010, two winners at Chepstow have gone on to later win the Cheltenham Gold Cup, which is the blue riband event of the entire National Hunt season.

The importance of class is reflected in the odds as winners tend to come from higher up the leaderboard than in other competitive handicaps, whilst classy jumping is a necessity in these sort of challenges as it provides something for horses to rely on as they tire.

Changes of Venue

The traits required to win the Welsh Grand National have remained largely the same during its long and storied history. That includes multiple different venues, the first of which was Ely Racecourse. The Cardiff track hosted the race from 1895 until the outbreak of World War II in 1939 when it was closed. After one year in Caerleon it was moved to Chepstow where it has remained ever since save for 1994 when it was moved to Newbury.

That first edition at Chepstow was won by Fighting Line who was ridden by the legendary Dick Francis. Other notable winners at Chepstow include Bindaree and Silver Birch who both also won the Grand National at Aintree and Burrough Hill Lad who won the Welsh Grand National and the Cheltenham Grand National in the same season.

The Importance of Age

In recent years horses aged either eight or nine have tended to dominate. From 1989 until 2013 animals of that age won 16 times out of 23 completed races. Since then, however, we have seen some highly unusual results, as you can see below.

  • 2014, Emperor's Choice aged 7
  • 2015, Mountainous aged 11
  • 2016, Native River aged 6
  • 2017, Raz De Maree aged 13

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