The day after Boxing Day is the biggest day of Welsh horse racing. The card at Chepstow is headlined by one of the most highly regarded handicap chases of the season, the Welsh Grand National.
Like its namesake at Aintree, the Welsh Grand National is an incredibly demanding race. 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 before their final push for the line and a place in history.
Next Race: Sunday, 27th December 2020
The next race is scheduled to run on 27th December 2020. The race info, trends and tips shown below will be updated for the next renewal once the final declarations have been made.
Last Run: 27th December 2019
- Winner: Potters Corner
- SP: 8/1
- Trainer: Christian Williams
- Jockey: Jack Tudor
This Grade 3 race covers 3 miles 5½ furlongs, set to be run on soft ground, with over £85,000 awaiting the victor.
|Going||Distance||Grade||Prize Money||Runners||EW Terms|
|Soft||3m5½f||Grade 3||£150,000||17 Runners||1/4 1-4|
Welsh Grand National Betting Tips
Note: The following tips are from the last running of the race. Tips for the next renewal will be added once the final declarations have been made.
The Welsh Grand National is a race for which each way betting is ready made. It takes a very confident punter to come down on the side of just one horse for a race which has produced winners at 10/1 (twice), 16/1 and 20/1 (twice) inside the last 10 years alone. That said favourite backers have been rewarded twice in the last three years and last year’s winner, Elegant Escape, goes into the 2019 renewal as the favourite to defend his crown.
Although this is a historic race which dates back to 1895 and has seen some high profile renewals and winners over the years, it’s not one in which punters looking to profile a winner find things very easy at all. There are few trends which have been particularly helpful to punters in the last 20 years or so but there are some definitive attributes for horses to possess if they are to be successful at Chepstow.
With soft ground set to greet the 17 competitors once again, the most obvious required attribute is stamina. This is a truly gruelling test for each and every horse in the race so only those with the big hearts have a chance of finishing the course let alone winning. An ability to jump well under pressure is also required given the size of the field and just how much recovering from a poor jump takes out of a contender. Finally, you want the right mix of youth and experience. Horses older than nine have a poor record but those without a win over at least three miles can be discounted.
ELEGANT ESCAPE - 7/2
It is fair to say that this is not the strongest renewal in the long history of the Welsh Grand National. While there is always a chance of an upset in this contest, the consensus among many judges is that those at the head of the market have a stronger chance than is often the case. Therefore, it makes sense to seriously consider the chances of Elegant Escape securing another big win at Chepstow.
The first thing to consider with Elegant Escape and the biggest concern about backing him is that he runs off a mark which is nine pounds higher than 12 months ago. Overcoming that penalty will surely be difficult but many backers remain undeterred. Perhaps it was his performance when finishing second in the Grade 2 Charlie Hall Chase or a very credible third in the Grade 3 Ladbrokes Trophy that has seen his price hold at around the 7/2 mark. Or maybe punters are excited about Elegant Escape returning to a longer trip so he can make the very most out of his huge reserves of stamina.
Elegant Escape is one of the real classy options in the field for this year’s running of the Welsh Grand National. If you could be assured that everything would go to plan in running, he would look a very good bet. Given the unpredictable nature of this race, however, backing the favourite must come with a certain amount of caution.
YALA ENKI - 8/1
Of those horses who are better treated by the handicapper than the favourite, Yala Enki looks particularly appealing in what is just his second run for new connections. The experienced nine year old did a lot of good work under Venetia Williams’ stewardship and has plenty of success in this sort of challenging chase under his belt already. Hopes are high amongst the team at Ditcheat that the best is still yet to come for this smart performer now that Paul Nicholls is his trainer.
There is no doubt that Yala Enki is up to the task in the Welsh Grand National. After all, he finished third in this race last year. Although he came home five and a quarter lengths behind the winner, there is an eight pound swing in the weights this time around which really catches the eye. The handicapper saw nothing in Yala Enki’s most recent performance at Newbury to require a change in his official rating but he is sure to come on for what was his first run since having wind surgery in August.
If Paul Nicholls does manage to coax a little bit more out of Yala Enki after his attempts in the Ladbrokes Trophy we could be looking at a very good bet indeed with 8/1 a price that must be considered more than fair.
THE TWO AMIGOS - 20/1
Punters looking for a longer priced option for this year’s Welsh Grand National should consider an each way play on The Two Amigos at 20/1. This second season novice has had a good preparation for Chepstow with Nicky Martin sending him first for a hurdle race to blow away the cobwebs before the seven year old ran well in a chase over three miles and three and a half furlongs on soft ground at Fontwell.
The handicapper has not missed The Two Amigos as he is sixth in the weights for the Welsh Grand National but his mark still offers more than enough wiggle room for a bet, especially at the prices. The Two Amigos may be the perfect horse to complement a bet on either Elegant Escape or Yala Enki.
Welsh Grand National Winners
|2019||Potters Corner||8/1||Christian Williams||Jack Tudor|
|2018||Elegant Escape||3/1||Colin Tizzard||Tom O'Brien|
|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|
|2012*||Monbeg Dude||10/1||Michael Scudamore||Paul Carberry|
|2011||Le Beau Bai||10/1||Richard Lee||Charlie Poste|
|2010*||Synchronised||5/1||Jonjo O'Neill||A P McCoy|
*Races took place in the following January due to December meeting abandonment.
About The Welsh Grand National
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.
Longest Major British Chase Races
|Grand National||4m 2½f||30||Aintree||April||Grade 3|
|Eider Chase||4m ½f||25||Newcastle||February||Class 2|
|Scottish Grand National||4m||27||Ayr||April||Grade 3|
|National Hunt Challenge Cup||3m 7½f||25||Cheltenham||March||Grade 2|
|Cross Country Chase||3m 6f||32||Cheltenham||March||Class 2|
|Welsh Grand National||3m 5½f||22||Chepstow||December||Grade 3|
|Classic Chase||3m 5f||22||Warwick||January||Grade 3|
|Bet365 Gold Cup||3m 5f||24||Sandown||April||Grade 3|
|Grand National Trial||3m 4½f||22||Haydock||February||Grade 3|
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
As the chart below illustrates, these winners fall outside of the previous pattern, with eight year old horses dominating over the past thirty years.