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.
Today will be no exception as the rain is expected to fall on what is already soft ground. The race, because of its place in the calendar has frequently been abandoned due to adverse weather conditions including waterlogging, frost and or snow. Storm Bella caused a delay to the race last year by around ten days.
You will need to have a horse with stamina in abundance and 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
Our guest writer, Karl Hedley, aims to go through individual (selected) runners ahead of the big day itself to try and point you in the right direction to identify the winner.
SECRET REPRIEVE – EVAN WILLIAMS
Secret Reprieve is unbeaten at this track in three attempts as he attempts to retain his crown. Always in the midfield throughout the race last year, he cruised into contention for Adam Wedge with three fences left to jump.
The conditions hold no fears for the Evan Williams trained eight-year-old and he attempts to become the first horse to win back to back renewals of this race since Bonanza Boy in 1988/89.
Despite a long absence, he has proven he can go well fresh and with a relatively light weight on his back, he has to have obvious claims today.
THE BIG DOG – PETER FAHEY
He has been the subject of an ante-post gamble and that has to be respected but based on his two most recent runs he has a lot to do here.
He is unproven over this extreme trip but has won over three-and-a-half miles. Testing ground is no issue for the eight-year-old but in another negative move Jonathan Burke replaces usual rider Jamie Codd.
Seems to be rather short given his predicament and others look to have more solid chances.
IWILLDOIT – SAM THOMAS
There was absolutely no stopping him when he destroyed a field of solid handicappers here just a few weeks ago on what was his seasonal reappearance.
Prominent from the outset, he established a good rhythm and maintained a healthy lead after the fifth fence. He stacked them up from some way out and had them all toiling in his wake in the closing stages.
A horse that wins any race by twenty-seven lengths is probably a grade too good. He now steps up in grade and trip and there is nothing to suggest that he will not improve again for either.
The yard are fairly in and out at the moment but not a shock should this fella provide Sam Thomas with his biggest success as a trainer.
HIGHLAND HUNTER – PAUL NICHOLLS
Paul Nicholls loves to target his runners at Chepstow where he has a 25% 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 a couple of seasons ago.
Made a winning seasonal reappearance at Sandown a few weeks ago over a distance just shy of this trip. He got the better of the re-opposing Deise Aba by a nose on that occasion but will likely improve for the run.
He has a four-pound penalty to carry here. Having been only beaten a few lengths in the Midlands Grand National, he stays longer than the mother in law and has gone well on similar ground in the past. A threat to all if getting the rub of the green.
HOLD THAT TAUGHT – VENETIA WILLIAMS
He beat a decent yardstick in Christmas In April at Carlisle last time out in October but will need to step up another gear to be involved here. He had been off the track a long time going into that race and any punter would have to be wary of the dreaded bounce factor.
This is the furthest trip he has ever been tried over but he remains completely unexposed. If he stays he may well play a hand in the finish but he has also never been tried at this lofty level.
Charlie Deutsch has chosen him over Achille and Venetia has trained the winner of this race twice before. This may come at least a year too early for him.
DEISE ABA – PHILIP HOBBS
Deise Aba has finished second in his last two races and gets a nice pull at the weights having been touched off by Highland Hunter last time out at Sandown.
The eight-year-old is undoubtedly a stayer but he just seems to always find at least one too strong. He needs to improve on what he has shown on his last two visits to this track having been pulled up in the trial run for this race last season. He is another that will be well suited by any rain that falls.
A live each-way contender if seeing out this marathon trip.
MIGHTY THUNDER – LUCINDA RUSSELL
Absolutely no stranger to winning Grand Nationals, Lucinda Russell now targets one of her Scottish National hero at this centrepiece.
He is a relentless galloper and has won races up and including four miles. This ought to be a leisurely jog in the park in comparison for him and having had a prep run over far too short a trip last time, he is likely to strip a lot fitter for that effort here.
He wouldn’t want the ground to turn heavy though as he was well beaten on it the only other time he has encountered it. Derek Fox ought to know a bit more about his partner today and they have a sound each way squeak.
POTTERS CORNER – CHRISTIAN WILLIAMS
Potters Corner knows every blade of grass on this track having won here four times in the past including when taking this race back in 2019.
He is ten pounds better off this time around having seemingly lost his way following that memorable victory. He has been thrown into numerous cross-country races in recent runs to keep him sweet, and he ran his best ever race in that sphere last time out at Cheltenham over today’s trip.
A return to this track is certainly in his favour and with the ground that he loves, he will pose a threat despite his advancing years. An intriguing contender and interesting to see if he can roll back the years.
ELEGANT ESCAPE – COLIN TIZZARD
You can never write off a Colin Tizzard trained horse in a staying handicap but this fella has been a shadow of his former self in his most recent run.
A 631-day break day break meant that he hadn’t been on a racetrack since finishing second last in the 2020 Gold Cup at Cheltenham. He is dangerously well handicapped though and is a previous winner of this race back in 2018.
You would want to see a little spark of life before backing him again though and others look to have more credible chances.
HILL SIXTEEN – SANDY THOMPSON
Showed signs of a mini-revival at Aintree in the Becher Chase over three-and-a-quarter miles last time following a spell in the wilderness.
A career high mark here won’t make life any easier and it is an unknown as to whether he will actually see out this trip.
Sandy Thompson has a knack of rejuvenating these older horses though and Ryan Mania replaces Craig Nichol in the saddle. A bit of a shot in the dark here, but at least he acts on testing ground.
NATIVE RIVER – COLIN TIZZARD
An absolute legend of a horse who will bring the house down if he can capture this prize for a second time.
He is a true Grade One performer and if this race was now over a shorter trip of three miles, I would be more convinced of his chances.
At the age of eleven, he has had easier opportunities to win it again since 2016 and surely there are lighter weighted rivals who can use that to their advantage.
He will undoubtedly run his usual solid race but his stamina will do well to hold out here.
ACHILLE – VENETIA WILLIAMS
A first time appearance at this track for the eleven-year-old who wasn’t beaten too far in the Becher Chase at Aintree last time out.
Winless since 2019, it will take a performance of Herculean proportions to see him home in front today.
Whilst the ground will be fine, he does have some useful form in staying chases including when placed in the Grand National Trial at Haydock last season.
He always seems to find at least one too good these days and it could well be déjà vu for him once again here.
DISCORDANTLY – JESSICA HARRINGTON
Has proved to be a bitterly disappointing sort over the last few seasons and has never shown much when brought over to the British mainland to compete.
With form that has more letters than numbers these days, he is probably best avoided. A first time tongue-tie offers no guarantees of a reversal in fortune and Gavin Sheehan who rides looks to have his work cut out on board.
EVA’S OSKAR – TIM VAUGHAN
Eva’s Oskar is a model of consistency and has won three times previously at this track. Seems to run better when good is in the official going although he did win on heavy ground here back in 2019.
Recent runs at Ascot and Cheltenham suggest he is still in excellent condition and there is no reason to think he cannot turn in another solid effort despite being eight pounds out of the handicap proper. Another decent run predicted.
RAMSES BE TEILLEE – DAVID PIPE
He would probably have a good squeak if he returned to his 2018 form which saw his win and place second at this track.
Since then he seems to have gone off the boil somewhat and has failed to live up to probable expectations.
He was beaten 55 lengths in this last year and has been beaten in much lower company since. Hard to recommend.
CAPTAIN DRAKE – HARRY FRY
One win in ten previous chases probably just about sum him up. He has been beaten out of sight on his last three runs and hard to see that dynamic changing here.
You have to go all the way back to March 2020 to see his last run and he is clearly finding life at this level extremely tough.
He needs to have his sights lowered before being seen in any winners sometime soon.
KIMBERLITE CANDY – TOM LACEY
Hard to fancy based on two most recent starts at Aintree including when beaten thirty lengths there last time in the Becher Chase.
Has the first time blinkers applied this afternoon and although likely to improve for their application, he need the handicapper to start relenting before he can be considered seriously for any race again.
He still races off a mark of 150, which is ten pounds higher than when he was last seen winning at Warwick a couple of seasons ago. Tom Lacey needs to have conjured up some improvement from this JP McManus owned gelding for him to get involved.
TRUCKERS LODGE – PAUL NICHOLLS
I actually fancied him strongly to win this last year so it was a massive disappointment that he finished a remote seventh.
He has an awful lot of work to do to reverse recent form with Iwilldoit as he was beaten no less than 45 lengths by the Sam Thomas horse. Despite being relatively lightly raced; it would take a career best for him to get anywhere near the winners’ enclosure especially based on recent form.
COLORADO DOC – DAVID BRACE
Unproven at any trip like this in the past and is another that races from out of the handicap which makes his life even tougher.
He is fairly versatile but most of his winning has come when there has been some form of good in the going description.
Two recent seconds have been encouraging in chases but ultimately no match for Iwilldoit at this track and barring accidents, he should not reverse the form.
Conor Brace has ridden him twice to victory in the past, but hard to see them figuring in the finish here.
MAC TOTTIE – PETER BOWEN
Usually a sound and reliable jumper but at Aintree last time he capsized at the sixth fence. Peter Bowen has hopefully schooled him plenty following that fall and all being well, he could not be entirely written off in this race.
He thrives on his racing and he operates well on a flat track. If over his exertions from last time, he could well surprise a few at a decent price provided he stays this far.
9/2 Secret Reprieve, 7/1 The Big Dog, 8/1 Highland Hunter, 9/1 Hold That Taught, 11/1 Iwilldoit, 12/1 Deise Aba, 14/1 Elegant Escape, Mighty Thunder, Native River, 16/1 Discordantly, Hill Sixteen, Potters Corner, 18/1 Ramses De Teillee, 20/1 Eva’s Oskar, 25/1 Achille, Captain Drake, Colorado Doc, Truckers Lodge, 28/1 Kimberlite Candy, 33/1 Mac Tottie.
Secret Reprieve looks to have plenty in his favour as he won this son easily last year. The early 7/1 was taken up long ago by punters and they are probably more than confident of his chances as he is still open to plenty of improvement.
There are dangers everywhere of course and the biggest threat could come from Mighty Thunder (E/W). He is proven over extreme trips and certainly has youth on his side. He won’t mind the conditions and enjoyed a nice prep for this last time out.
Others that could go well include previous winners Potters Corner and Native River. Iwilldoit will be a massive threat if he stays.
WELSH GRAND NATIONAL 2021 TIPS
- Secret Reprieve
- Mighty Thunder
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