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Coral Welsh Grand National: Key trends from the last 30 years

| 26.12.2022

Welsh Grand National trends: The last 30 races examined

With Christmas out of the way it is time for the Coral Welsh Grand National – one of the highlights of the festive racing calendar.

The Chepstow race – first held in 1895 – is run over 23 fences and a distance of three miles, six-and-a-half furlongs. It is seen as a breeding ground for future contenders at the Aintree Grand National and the Cheltenham Gold Cup, with two winners of each event in the past 20 years having previously triumphed at the Welsh National.

We have crunched the numbers from the past 30 editions to identify some key Welsh Grand National trends which may be predictors of success for the race on December 27.

Should you follow the odds?

Scheduled in December amid cold and sometimes wet conditions, the Welsh Grand National is a notoriously difficult race to finish. Almost half of starters (49 per cent) since 1990 have failed to complete the course, including 15 out of 20 last year.

Despite this unpredictability, the results have tracked pre-race odds fairly closely, with 10 of the past 12 winners priced at 10/1 or shorter.

Welsh Grand National outsiders

Hot favourites in the Welsh Grand National betting are especially worthy of consideration – almost three-quarters of Welsh National runners priced at 4/1 or better placed in the top four, while only 10 per cent failed to finish. The Irish-bred trio of Secret Reprieve, Elegant Escape and Native River have all won as short-priced favourites since 2016.

In contrast, our study of Welsh Grand National trends shows that horses rated at 15/2 or longer have traditionally struggled, with around half pulling up on the 23-fence journey. Last year, only three of 18 starters priced in this range stayed the course.

Which jockeys are most effective over the Chepstow fences?

Such is the brutal nature of the Welsh National, very few jockeys have had repeat success at the event.

Renowned jump jockeys Ruby Walsh and Richard Johnson have recorded the most top-four finishes since 1990 (four apiece), while Adam Wedge – aiming for a second win aboard Secret Reprieve in 2022 – is the closest present-day contender with three top fours in seven attempts.

Welsh Grand National most successful jockeys

Among riders to have featured in Chepstow since 2019, Lorcan Williams and Bryony Frost have the best record in percentage terms, with two finishes of fourth or better in three outings. Welsh jockey Williams narrowly missed out on victory twice aboard Truckers Lodge in 2019 and 2021, and will hope to top the rostrum on Secret Investor in 2022.

Which trainers have the best record?

Last year’s edition saw trainer Sam Thomas triumph with his first and only entry in the Chepstow race – the Welsh thoroughbred Iwilldoit. Thomas edged out more established trainers Paul Nicholls and Venetia Williams, who each added to their long lists of top-four finishes at the National Hunt event.

Williams is statistically the most successful of current trainers, with nine top-four finishes from 21 runners. Nicholls is close behind on 17 top-fours out of 43 attempts. Both have trained two winners, although neither has tasted victory since 2014 when Williams won with Emperor’s Choice.

Welsh Grand National most successful trainers

Jonjo O’Neill, Nigel Twiston-Davies and Colin Tizzard have also celebrated multiple victories, with Tizzard winning most recently in 2016 (Native River) and 2018 (Elegant Escape).

What can we learn from recent history?

The Welsh Grand National Trial Handicap Chase, run at the same venue over 18 fences at the start of December, is increasingly a barometer of a horse’s credentials for the big race.

The past two National winners – Secret Reprieve and Iwilldoit – triumphed only a few weeks earlier in the Trial Handicap. They were following in the footsteps of two-time victor Mountainous, who came third in the warm-up race before the first of his triumphs in 2013.

With this in mind, Secret Reprieve is once again worth keeping an eye on, having finished second to French-bred Farinet at this year’s Trial Handicap, run on December 3.

Welsh Grand National trial form guide

A win for Secret Reprieve would also continue the recent run of Irish success, with eight of the last 10 champions at the Welsh National having been bred in Ireland.

British and French-bred horses were dominant in the 20 editions before that, winning 14 times between them in the period between 1990 and 2011.

Welsh Grand National Irish dominance

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Warren Barner