Welsh Grand National – The Key Contenders
Five Runners to Look Our for at Chepstow
Chepstow’s showpiece event takes place over the festive period and there will be a host of challengers looking to claim the illustrious Grade 3 prize. Our expert has highlighted the names to look out for in the big race.
Favourite – SECRET REPRIEVE
Chepstow’s feature event stayed in Wales for the second time last year when SECRET REPRIEVE ran out a comfortable winner for trainer Evan Williams after being incredibly well supported in the market.
The seven-year-old had previously landed the Trial event at the course prior to that Grade 3 success by a widening 12l and certainly saves his best performances for the Monmouthshire track.
His claims are obvious in this year’s renewal as he makes his return off a mark of 140 which looks particularly attractive given how easily he took last season’s contest. The question mark regarding his chance however is the lack of a recent run this campaign and he recently missed an engagement in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury.
Market Leaders – HIGHLAND HUNTER & THE BIG DOG
Paul Nicholls landed back to back wins in this feature race in 2004 and 2005 with Silver Birch and L’Aventure and looks to have another live chance in HIGHLAND HUNTER. The eight-year-old looks tailor-made for this sort of test and put in a strong staying performance when defying top-weight to win over an extended 3m4f at Sandown earlier this month. Paul Nicholls’ charge has seemingly improved in his recent outings over fences and has previously shown his aptitude for marathon trips when fifth in the 4m2f Midlands Grand National at Uttoxeter earlier this year.
There has been continued support in recent weeks for THE BIG DOG who looks to have strong claims for Irish trainer Peter Fahey. The eight-year-old was a game-winner of the Punchestown Grand National Trial over 3m4f back in February when partnered by Jamie Codd and willingly saw off the challenge of Screaming Colours. Peter Fahey’s charge certainly remains unexposed over marathon trips and has clearly been aimed at this event for some time by connections.
Class Angle – NATIVE RIVER
The 2016 winner of this race and dual Grade 1 winner NATIVE RIVER heads the weights for trainer Colin Tizzard. The eleven-year-old raced for home someway out five years ago and had plenty in the tank to see off the late challenge of Raz De Maree who also went on to win the Chepstow showpiece in 2018.
Colin Tizzard’s charge soon left Handicap company after that triumph and scaled the ranks in Graded company which culminated in Cheltenham Gold Cup glory in 2018 under jockey Richard Johnson.
Three further wins have followed since tasting Festival success including at the start of this year when an impressive winner from Bristol De Mai in the Grade 2 Cotswold Chase at Sandown over 3miles.
Native River returned to action earlier this month when finishing second to runway Many Clouds Chase winner Protektorat off a mark of 166 and connections will be hoping he can make a bold bid in search of a second Welsh Grand National win despite his advancing years, now dropped 4lb for that recent run.
Lively Outsider – HILL SIXTEEN
There was a lot to like about the recent display from HILL SIXTEEN when agonisingly missing out on Becher Chase success at Aintree when denied by the resolute grey Snow Leopardess. The eight-year-old jumped the National fences incredibly well considering it was his first venture over them and stayed on powerfully over the extended 3m1f trip.
Sandy Thomson’s charge appears well treated and is not without hope now trying this trip for the first time and could relish this sort of test considering how strong he was at the line last time out.