Since 1979, the Welsh National has been staged at Chepstow on the 27th December. It’s a Grade 3 Handicap Chase run over a stamina sapping 3 miles 5½ furlongs and requires runners to jump 22 fences.
It usually attracts a big-field and is one of the most popular races run over the Christmas period as punters get the chance to back horses at much bigger prices than in many of the other high-profile festive races such as the King George or Christmas Hurdle.
The race has also often proved a pointer to some of National Hunt’s leading races, with winners such as Corbiere, Earth Summit, Bindaree and Silver Birch going onto win future Grand Nationals and Burrough Hill Lad, Cool Ground, Master Oats and Synchronised going on to win Cheltenham Gold Cups.
Weight is always difficult to carry over extreme distances, especially if the ground is heavy, and it’s no surprise that horses carrying 10-13 or less have won 25 of the 33 renewals in comparison to horses carrying 11-0 or more who’ve won just 8/33. Indeed, 16 of those 33 winners have carried 10-5 or less.
Age also seems to be a significant factor with all winners being aged between 6 and 10. However, 7-year-olds (12) and 8-year-olds (12) have dominated with 6-year-olds (2), 9-year-olds (5) and 10-year-olds (2) winning the remainder. 8-year-olds have interestingly also won the last 5 renewals.
Grand National winning trainers Nigel Twiston-Davies and Paul Nicholls have both won the race twice, whilst Richard lee has won two of the last three renewals. Meanwhile, it’s worth noting that Km Bailey saddled future Gold Cup winner Master Oats (carried 11-6) and is considering running the classy Harry Topper off top-weight, however Master Oats won a rescheduled Welsh National which was run at Newbury.
Amazingly, you have to go back to 1991 to find a jockey who’s won the race twice, which is Peter Scudamore who won the race four-times in a seven-year period.
The participation of Harry Topper (20/1) could have a major influence on this race as his presence will mean other horses will carry a lot less weight. Two trainers who will be hoping he runs will be Michael Scudamore and Paul Nicholls who could respectively saddle Monbeg Dude (10/1) and Unioniste (25/1).
Monbeg Dude is a previous winner of the race and, though he’s rated around 18lb higher than his winning mark, he’s run creditably since including when 7th in last year’s Grand National.
Meanwhile, Unioniste finished just over four lengths behind Harry Topper in last year’s Charlie Hall Chase off level weights and, being closely related to Grand National winner Neptune Collonges, could improve markedly for the step-up in trip.
Last year’s winner Mountainous (16/1) appeals most of the others as he can race off just a 3lb higher mark this time around, and dual-winning trainer Richard Lee will have undoubtedly left no stone unturned in preparing him to become the first horse to win two Welsh Nationals since Bonanza Boy.
Monbeg Dude 1 point win @ 10/1
Unionist 1 point each-way @ 25/1
Mountainous 1 point each-way @ 16/1
However, with the unpredictable weather and the question marks over Harry Topper’s participation, if you’d sooner keep your powder dry until the big-day – don’t worry as we’ll be bringing you plenty of horse racing tips over the festive period, including an update on our Welsh National selections.