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. The 2020 edition was lost to the elements so runs in early January.
Like its namesake at Aintree, the Welsh Grand National is an incredibly demanding race. The runners involved must cover more than 3m 6½f of Chepstow’s undulating and usually very challenging ground. While undoubtedly a test of stamina, jumping ability also plays a big part with 23 fences to be cleared before their final push for the line and a place in history.
Next Race: TBD
The next renewal of this race has not been scheduled yet. We will update this once the schedule has been released for next season. The race info, trends and tips shown below will be updated for the next renewal once the final declarations have been made.
Last Run: 9th January 2021
- Winner: Secret Reprieve
- SP: 5/2
- Trainer: Evan Williams
- Jockey: Adam Wedge
December’s loss is January’s gain, as this weekend looks set to be lit up by the rescheduled Welsh Grand National at Chepstow. There are still some doubts about the rearranged date due to the cold weather, with the BBC reporting that “Clerk of the course Libby O'Flaherty has called a precautionary check for 14:30 GMT on Friday”. However, we are cautiously optimistic that the race will go ahead.
As ever, this 3m6½f Grade 3 Handicap sees a field of quality stayers doing battle for a chunk of the £150,000 in total prize money on offer. Always one of the most stamina-sapping contests of the season, the likely heavy ground at the track looks set to make this year’s edition all the more gruelling.
|Going||Distance||Grade||Prize Money||Runners||EW Terms|
|Heavy||3m6½f||Grade 3||£150,000||18 Runners||1/4 1-4|
Welsh Grand National Betting Tips
Note: The following tips are from 2021. Tips for the next renewal will be added once the final declarations have been made.
Legendary trainer Martin Pipe tops the table in this event with five wins. Pipe is of course now long since retired, and of the trainers represented this year Paul Nicholls, Colin Tizzard, Nigel Twiston-Davies and Ventia Williams boast the best records with two wins apiece.
Taking place in Wales deep in the winter months, this race regularly turns into a real slog. As such it is perhaps not surprising that those carrying a relatively light weight have fared well, with seven of the past nine winners carrying less than 11st on the day.
The past decade has seen just the two market leaders come home in front. That’s not actually too bad a strike-rate for an event so competitive as this, but would still have resulted in a loss of £2.25 to £1 level stakes for supporters of the market leader.
We haven’t seen too many huge surprises over the last 20 years, with 2013 winner Mountainous the longest-priced victor at 20/1. Indeed, aside from Paul Moloney’s charge there has only been one other winner at odds longer than 10/1 in the past 10 runnings of this famous contest. Moreover, 19 of the last 20 winners were sent off at odds of 14/1 or less in their race prior to this, so it really isn’t a contest for major upsets.
Aside from those price trends, the stats tell us to look out for a horse to have finished in at least the top six last time out: that trend has a 100% hit rate over the past two decades. Two more trends able to boast that is that any Welsh National hopeful should ideally have raced within the last 20-55 days and not be a 10 year old. That said, whilst no horse aged 10 has won since Riverside Boy in 1993, we did see Raz De Maree win in 2017 at the ripe old age of 13, whilst Mountainous was 11 when claiming his second win in this one (in 2015).
|Secret Reprieve||4/1||10st 1lb||Evan Williams||Adam Wedge|
|Christmas In April||10/1||10st 3lbs||Colin Tizzard||Brendan Powell|
|Prime Venture||14/1||10st 6lbs||Evan Williams||Tom O'Brien|
Secret Reprieve – 4/1
Local handler Evan Williams is yet to win Wales’s biggest race, but he has been knocking on the door of late having sent out four runners to finish in the first four in the past nine years – coming closest with the runner up finish of Firebird Flyer in 2016. If the market is to be believed, the Vale of Glamorgan handler may have his best chance yet of going one better in 2021, as it is his six year old, Secret Reprieve, who is out on his own at the head of the market.
Making only his sixth career start over fences here, this son of Flemensfirth may not have the experience of a number of his rivals, but on the plus side that does mean he is one of the most likely contenders to have something in hand from the assessor. He does also have the look of one who has specifically been laid out for this race; a plan which was likely hatched from the moment he hinted that stamina might be his strong suit when a staying on second to Newtide over 3m at Ffos Las last season.
His seasonal comeback at Haydock didn’t quite go to plan when falling at the sixth fence, but his effort last time out at this track could scarcely have gone better. Cruising up on the inside of the reopposing The Two Amigos and Bobo Mac, he ultimately pulled clear for a 12l success in that 2m7½f event. With that win coming after the weights for this race had been published, he gets in under just a 4lb penalty here, making him look very well in should he handle this step up in trip.
Christmas In April – 10/1
Another runner sneaking in towards the foot of the weights who looks likely to be ideally suited by this marathon test is the Colin Tizzard-trained eight year old, Christmas In April. Boasting career form figures of 312211P in chase contests over 3m or more, and already a three time winner on soft or heavy going, he looks one of the most likely contenders to thrive in the likely attritional conditions we are sure to see. He also seems to enjoy “Nationals”, with two of his previous successes having come in the Devon and Sussex Nationals last season, before he then ended the campaign on something of a sour note when pulled up in the Midlands National at Uttoxeter.
Fast forward to the current campaign, and it was yet another “National” which was on the cards for his seasonal return. This time the Southern version at Fontwell. No match for Cloudy Glen that day – who also goes here – he nevertheless stayed on pleasingly for second in that 3m3½f event and is fully 12lbs better off with his conqueror here.
The piece of form that really stands out for us though is his 8½l rout in that Devon National last season. Being run over 3m6½f and on heavy ground, that event is pretty comparable to this and he gets in off only a 7lb higher mark. With a number of firms offering enhanced each way terms, he looks solid value to hit the frame at a double figure price.
Prime Venture – 14/1
Such are the stamina demands of this event, that a proven ability to go well in the conditions can count for plenty, and one who scores highly in that regard is another of the Evan Williams runners, Prime Venture. This horse seems to have been around for a while now, but is still only nine years of age and, if able to replicate last year’s effort in the race, he should not be too far away at all.
Boasting overall form figures of 2344 in chase contests at this track, the latest of those efforts came when staying on dourly into fourth in this contest 12 months ago. Last year’s winner Potters Corner doesn’t go to post this year, but the second, Truckers Lodge does, and Prime Venture is fully 12lbs better off with that rival for just 2½l. Having sluiced home by 12l on his return at Sedgefield at the beginning of November, he should be primed and ready to go here. Versatile in regards to the going conditions, he is another who looks good value to at least make the frame.
Welsh Grand National Winners
|2020*||Secret Reprieve||5/2||Evan Williams||Adam Wedge|
|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|
*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 6½ furlongs, includes 23 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|
|Welsh Grand National||3m 6½f||23||Chepstow||December||Grade 3|
|Cross Country Chase||3m 6f||32||Cheltenham||March||Class 2|
|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.