The Welsh Grand National can be one of the most demanding Grand Nationals owing to the fact that it is often cold, wet and there are generally unforgiving and unrelenting conditions over the three mile and six furlong trip.
The race, because of its place in the calendar, has frequently been abandoned due to adverse weather conditions including waterlogging, frost and or snow. And once again in 2020 that proved to be the case. With a soggy course after very heavy rainfall, the original date of December 27th 2020 had to be abandoned. The race was then moved to January 9th 2021.
To be in with a real chance of winning the Welsh Grand National you need to have a horse with stamina in abundance. That and one that is usually proven on soft or heavy ground.
This test of endurance over an extended three and a half miles is stamina sapping at its best. The race tends to produce winners that have certainly proved to be worth following subsequently including the likes of Synchronised and Native River.
Paul Nicholls, Venetia Williams, Colin Tizzard and Jonjo O’Neill are amongst the elite trainers to have captured this prize with their runners in its history, but it is great to see the likes of local trainers Kerry Lee and Christian Williams coming through and making their marks on this historic race.
Previous Winners of the Welsh Grand National
My main aim here is to go through individual (selected) runners ahead of the 2020 Welsh Grand National to try and point you in the right direction to identify the winner.
Secret Reprieve – Evan Williams
Secret Reprieve is unbeaten in two starts at Chepstow and saw off the attentions of likely rivals Bobo Mac and The Two Amigos over three miles here in early December. He pulled a dozen lengths clear of his field and the further they went, the better he looked.
— At The Races (@AtTheRaces) December 5, 2020
He is proven on heavy ground so that is an added bonus but there may well be doubts about him seeing out this extra half mile. Evan Williams has never trained the winner of the race, but if his lad sees out this extra distance, it would be a career milestone for the trainer.
The price is skinny enough, but his form stacks up well and he probably deserves his place at the top of the ante-post market.
Springfield Fox – Tom George
Springfield Fox attempted to make all on his seasonal reappearance here at the beginning of the month and may well have faded over a trip over a trip possibly too short for him these days.
Tom George clearly thinks of him as a dour stayer as he ran in the National Hunt Challenge Cup Amateur Riders’ Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham back in March. He was well fancied that day but lost all momentum at the first jump where he hit the fence. He did survive but as fate would have it, he would make a costly error at the sixteenth fence and it was game over.
He is another that thrives on testing ground and cannot be underestimated. Open to plenty of improvement, he has limited mileage on the clock and could well have a say in the closing stages.
Truckers Lodge – Paul Nicholls
Paul Nicholls loves to target his runners at Chepstow where he has a near 40% strike rate with his runners. He has trained the winner of this race twice with the likes of Silver Birch and L’Aventure winning back in 2005 and 2006 and Truckers Lodge found only Potters Corner too strong last season.
A very bold and gutsy display for Paul Nicholls sees Truckers Lodge out battle Unwin Vc to win the first division of the https://t.co/zL3YfohqK9 Cheltenham Festival Tips "National Hunt" Novices' Hurdle under Lorcan Willaims 👏 pic.twitter.com/7vWU00qLiB
— Exeter Racecourse (@ExeterRaces) March 5, 2019
He has some excellent form figures around this track that reads 214211. He clearly relishes the challenge that the track presents and although carrying more weight this year, he will be a force to be reckoned with.
Paul Nicholls has been sending out winners for fun of late and despite an uncustomary unseating of Lorcan Williams at Kelso last time, this eight-year-old could well prove the pick of the field.
He has won over four and a quarter miles so will be staying on when the others have cried enough and this former Midlands Grand National winner is worthy of a second look.
Vieux Lion Rouge – David Pipe
This eleven-year-old veteran bounced back to winning ways at Aintree over an extended three miles at the beginning of the month. It is worth noting that he was particularly well handicapped for that most recent win and won’t be so fortunate this time around.
There is certainly a pot of gold at the end of this rainbow…Vieux Lion Rouge! pic.twitter.com/6JBxt7Q65a
— David Pipe (@DavidPipeRacing) December 15, 2020
He pulled up in this race two seasons ago, so if things are going his way he can spit the dummy out. There looks to be less exposed sorts who should improve past him in this field and I would say he only has minor place hopes at best nowadays.
Bobo Mac – Tom Symonds
This up and coming trainer has his string in rude health as proved when landing his biggest career success to date with Song For Someone winning the Grade 2 International Hurdle at Cheltenham just a couple of weeks ago.
Bobo Mac was completely unfancied when third to Secret Reprieve here last time out. Wins at Ludlow, Southwell and Warwick means he certainly knows where the wining post is, but he has plenty to find with recent conqueror Secret Reprieve.
He won’t mind the underfoot conditions but is another unproven over a trip this far. Hard to make a case for.
Calipso Collonges – Olly Murphy
Olly Murphy is having a tremendous year but it would be quite a turn up should his representative win this. He has oodles to find with Vieux Lion Rouge based on their recent Aintree run and he is not sure to appreciate this massive hike in distance.
I really couldn’t of asked for a better ride for my first time over the National fences what dude, Calipso Collonges taking on the chair like it’s nothing 🐎😅@O_J_murphy91 @jgrossick #bunny #somethrill pic.twitter.com/8kaQ4BCVyx
— Danny Mcmenamin (@Danmcmenamin1) December 6, 2020
He will be try and attack late on hoping that the pace will collapse, but often on deteriorating ground, the best place to be is out in front.
He hasn’t won a race in two years and it is hard to see him reversing his fortunes here.
Cloudy Glen – Venetia Williams
Venetia Williams has won this race twice in the past courtesy of Jocks Cross (2000) and Emperors Choice (2014).
Cloudy Glen is her representative this time around but he ran a lacklustre race at Sandown at the beginning of the month and unless he is fully over that it is hard to see him being competitive.
He has won at Chepstow before and will love the likely muddy conditions. Trevor Hemmings must think the world of him to keep him and he may have a minor each-way squeak at best.
Ramses De Teillee – David Pipe
Ramses De Teillee is a striking grey who finished runner-up to Elegant Escape here back in 2018. He has never won a race with any field size greater than twelve and there will be more rivals than that here.
Has been mixing it over hurdles and in chases in the last couple of seasons and he returned to form with a win at Cheltenham back in November in a Grade 3 Chase.
He flopped badly at Aintree subsequently and he needs to prove he is over that to be involved here. He likes to get his toe in but others look to be in better form.
The Two Amigos – Nicky Martin
The Two Amigos is an up and coming stayer who has proved himself under the most testing of conditions by picking up wins over marathon trips on soft and heavy ground at racecourses such as Exeter and Newton Abbot.
— At The Races (@AtTheRaces) January 6, 2019
The eight-year-old still has fairly low mileage on the clock, but he does have a raft of experience to call upon. A win here would give Nicky Martin her biggest career success to date.
If the ground conditions turn out to be as predicted, he would merit serious consideration. He was fifth in this last year and only capitulated in the closing stages.
If his rivals fail to fire, he will certainly be there to pick up the pieces and he is an obvious contender.
Yala Enki – Paul Nicholls
Yala Enki just doesn’t seem to be the force of old where he was able to record six wins for Venetia Williams. Since moving to Ditcheat, he has recorded just the one win from half a dozen starts and even that was in much lesser company than this.
In fairness, he was placed here last year when third to Potters Corner, but that may be as good as he is now.
A fall at the first fence on his most recent start at Aintree won’t have done anything to improve his confidence and he looks to be very much the stable second string here.
Christmas In April – Colin Tizzard
This eight-year-old didn’t have the stamina to last home over four-and-a-quarter miles when contesting the Midlands Grand National back in March, but made a fair attempt in the Southern National at Fontwell last month.
He will be fully expected to come on for that run, but he does have to improve again to turn around the thirteen length defeat inflicted on him by Cloudy Glen.
He is pretty versatile when it comes to ground conditions and only a fool would write him off entirely.
The yard has won this race twice in recent years, so they know exactly what kind of horse it takes to land the prize.
Welsh Grand National Odds – Paddy Power, 7th Jan 2021
10/3 Secret Reprieve
7/1 Springfield Fox
8/1 Truckers Lodge
9/1 Christmas In April
10/1 The Two Amigos
12/1 Yala Enki, Prime Venture
14/1 Ramses De Teillee, Bobo Mac
16/1 Lord Du Mesnil, The Hollow Ginge,
20/1 Cloudy Glen, Vieux Lion Rouge, Big River, Captain Drake
25/1 Calipso Collonges
33/1 Joe Farrell
TRUCKERS LODGE has some excellent form around this track and with the Paul Nicholls team in good form, he appeals at decent each-way odds for the Welsh Grand National.
The yard has won this race twice before and it would be of little surprise to see him play a prominent role here. He has stamina in abundance and provided he is fully over his exertions at Kelso at the end of October, he has the ability to go very close.
Cloudy Glen is better than what he showed at Sandown last time and may fare better but The Two Amigos ran a fine race in this last year and he too may give the selection the most to think about.
Written by Karl Hedley