Iwilldoit gives Sam Thomas landmark success in Welsh National

Former jockey Sam Thomas gained the biggest win of his burgeoning training career when Iwilldoit landed a gamble under Stan Sheppard in the Coral Welsh Grand National in a gruelling, stamina-sapping test at Chepstow.

Backed into 13-2 from 12-1 on the morning of the race, the eight-year-old went to the front eight fences from home and ground down the opposition in the extended three-and-three-quarter-mile Grade Three marathon in which only five of the 20 starters finished.

Owned by Diamond Racing, Iwilldoit opened his campaign with victory in the trial here over an extended two miles and seven furlongs earlier this month.

Winning trainer Sam Thomas (left) and jockey Stan Sheppard
Winning trainer Sam Thomas (left) and jockey Stan Sheppard (David Davies/PA)

The race itself – being run behind closed doors for the second successive year due to covid restrictions – suffered two false starts with Harry Cobden keen to get a good position on Highland Hunter and they finally got away from a standing start at the third attempt.

Iwilldoit was keen early, but had plenty of cover and was allowed his head a long way from home, taking over from the pace-setting Ramses De Teillee.

His jumping proved foot-perfect throughout and only two horses really mattered three from home, with Iwilldoit jumping with aplomb and outstaying Highland Hunter and Cobden to record a nine-length success.

Thomas said: “I can’t put it into words. I can’t believe how emotional I am.

“I didn’t dare think for a minute that we were going to win. I know we had a chance, but it is incredible.

“I’m a bit overwhelmed by the whole experience, if I’m honest.

“It is tremendous to keep it in Wales. I am a proud Welshman and it hasn’t really sunk in. It is what dreams are made of, really.

“It is very bizarre being stood here in an empty stand with no crowd. It just doesn’t feel right, really.

“I have enjoyed every minute of that race, but my family should be here, the rest of the owners should be here, and it is a very sad day for racing, really. It just doesn’t feel right – 40 minutes away in Bristol there is a full stadium of people watching rugby. It is crazy.”

He added: “Big targets keep your eye on the ball and it is what gets you out of bed every day.

“I have a fantastic team at home and this is a team effort.

Iwilldoit on his way to winning the Welsh National
Iwilldoit on his way to winning the Welsh National (David Davies/PA)

“When he hit the front down the back and got into his rhythm, I thought all he had to do was stay on his feet really and he’d keep running is race.

“Stan gave him a lovely ride – it is a lot of pressure for a young jockey, but I’m delighted for him.

“He loved those conditions and bottom weight in those sort of races obviously helps in soft ground. Hopefully, I will be able to enjoy it a little more later.”

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