Everything you need to know ahead of the Welsh Grand National
As 2019 comes to a close, attention will soon turn to the biggest meetings of 2020. The curtain for jumps season has risen and one of the highlights at this early stage is the Welsh Grand National. Held at Chepstow every year on December 27th, it may not be as popular as its Aintree namesake, but the race is steeped in history and is prestigious in its own right. If you’re looking to have a punt, find the latest horse racing odds here and read on to find out everything you need to know.
The Welsh Grand National was first run in 1895 at Ely Racecourse in Cardiff. Following the closure of the track in 1939 and the devastation of World War II, it wasn’t until 1948 that the Welsh Grand National was raced again. Caerleon played host for that single race, but since 1949 Chepstow Racecourse has been the National’s home.
Much like the track changing, the date of the race has changed over time too. Originally run on Easter Tuesday, it was moved to February in 1969. A decade later, it was decided that the race would take place in late December, with the Welsh Grand National taking place on December 27th. Since 1979, the class of runners has improved and, in turn, has made it an indicative guide to the rest of the jumps season.
Since 1979, two races have been abandoned due to frost and a further four races postponed to January due to weather conditions. In stranger circumstances, the 1994 edition was switched to Newbury Racecourse in Berkshire. Waterlogging made the Chepstow track unraceable and it was a part of Newbury’s meeting on New Year’s Eve instead.
Since the race has been run at Chepstow, only two horses have gone on to win the Welsh Grand National more than once: Limonali (1959 and 1961) and Bonanza Boy (1988-89). Looking to add their name to the history books is Native River, the 2016 winner who’s among the favourites this year.
This century, two horses have won both the Welsh Grand National and its English counterpart. Bindaree won the 2002 Aintree race before securing a Grand National double the following year, while Silver Birch won the Chepstow race first (2004), before winning in Liverpool in 2007.
Winners of the Welsh Grand National have also gone on to secure the Cheltenham Gold Cup. 2010 winner Synchronised went on to win the 2012 Gold Cup, and the 2016 winner Native River won the 2018 Gold Cup.
Last year’s race saw success once again for trainer Colin Tizzard as Elegant Escape ran to victory. The 3/1 favourite finished one-and-a-quarter lengths ahead of Ramses De Teillee. Much like the Aintree Grand National, the favourite rarely wins the Welsh race too. In fact, since 2003 only three winners have been outright favourites (Native River, Silver Birch and Elegant Escape).
Raz De Maree made history in the 2017 edition of the race, which was postponed until January. At 13 years old, the French thoroughbred became the oldest winner of the Welsh Grand National. Last year, he came fifth and is a rank-outsider this time at around 33/1.
2019 field and favourites
At the time of writing, there are two 8/1 joint-favourites: Truckers Lodge and Now McGinty.
Since joining Paul Nicholls’ yard, Truckers Lodge has placed six times, with plenty of experience on the Chepstow track, including a win at October’s beginners’ chase. Despite his novice status, you cannot rule the seven-year-old out. Nicholls has four entries and while Captain Cattistock is a 25/1 outsider, Give Me A Copper and last year’s third-placed horse Yala Enki are among the favourites.