The Coral Welsh Grand National will take place on Thursday 27th December 2018 at Chepstow Racecourse. The last National of the year, this is one of the biggest races on the Christmas calendar. With still over a week to go, there are currently 59 potential runners vying for one of only 20 places at the starting line.

There are some significant differences between the Aintree and Chepstow showpieces. The Welsh National is half a mile shorter and has half the number of runners. The average age of Welsh winners tends to be less with 6, 7 and 8 year old’s fairing better. In fact, other than Mountainous in 2015 (11) and Raz De Maree (13) in 2017, no horse older than 9 has won the race since 1993.

Far fewer winners tend to weigh over 11-00 and since 1997 only four have managed that feat. Two of those were Synchronised in 2010 carrying 11-06 and Native River in 2016 carrying top weight of 11-12. That said, they were genuinely two of the best horses in the country at the time so their calibre more than made up for the weight they carried.

The Coral Welsh Grand National is also a handicapped race. This year Ballyoptic, from trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies, will have the honour of carrying top weight of 11-12. He fell last time out in the Becher Chase at Aintree but finished in 2nd place in the Scottish National in April so he definitely has the potential to do well. He is currently priced at 14/1 with Betfair.

Last year’s winner, Raz De Maree, is also back. A stalwart of national hunt racing, he is 13 years old. His form this season hasn’t been great however. He has been seen three times and while he got around each course, he finished more than 50L behind the winner each time. Keep in mind though that he loves Chepstow. He was second in the 2016 National behind Native River and the won the 2017 renewal. The Gavin Cromwell trained horse is at 20/1 and is a decent bet.

The race favourite with Betfair is Elegant Escape. Another ace up Colin Tizzard’s sleeve, this 6-year-old has a perfect record of winning or placing from his chases. With nine starts under his belt, he has won three, been second four times and third twice more. A young horse with an extremely bright future, you can back Elegant Escape at odds of 6/1 with Betfair.

At this stage it’s quite difficult to tip any runner in particular. More than half will not make the cut so whittling them down is problematic. One to consider though is Ms Parfois. Trained by Anthony Honeyball, she made her seasonal return at Newbury and while she didn’t win, she does have the potential to run a great race at Chepstow. So much so, that she’s currently 10/1 for the Welsh Grand National with Betfair.

The current Aintree Grand National favourite, Vintage Clouds, may also take his chances at Chepstow. The Sue Smith trained 8 year old is owned by Trevor Hemmings. Third in the Scottish National and winner last time out, he is priced at 10/1 with Betfair.

Next week we will have the full list of the confirmed runners with plenty of tips to help you decide who to back. So watch this space…