Colorado Doc and Connor Brace will carry the hopes of the Brace family over hallowed home turf when they line up for the Coral Welsh Grand National.
The bay chaser is entered for the staying marathon at Chepstow on December 27, a race that will hopefully provide a welcome change of fortune for his young rider, who has dealt admirably with injury setbacks.
Bred, owned and trained by Brace’s grandfather David, Colorado Doc and his jockey are well acquainted as Brace was present shortly after he was born at David’s Dunraven Stud in Bridgend, Wales.
“I’m not sure if I was definitely there when he was foaled, but I’d have definitely been there the next day,” he said.
“I would have been foaling down with my gramp. Paint The Dream, who we also have and will probably run on the same day with Ferg (O’Brien), I foaled him down.
“I was always about the place when the mares were foaling and it’s mad that we’re running Colorado Doc in a Welsh National now.”
After a successful spell point to pointing, where the horse was never beaten when completing, the gelding teamed up with Brace for his first run under rules when denied by just a neck in a 2019 Ffos Las maiden hurdle.
“I’ve been riding him for a few years now, I’ve won a couple of races on him. When I was back at home and I was pointing I did a lot of work with him as well,” Brace said.
“I think it was at Ffos Las (his debut), I actually got beaten that day but I’ve had a lot to do with him.
“Back when he was pointing, if he didn’t fall he’d win, basically. From his first few runs under rules he’s been very consistent. We found a couple of things wrong with him, he fell and pulled up a couple of times and we sorted all that out, since then he’s been back and running very well. We couldn’t be happier with him going into the race.
“I’ve ridden him in all his runs under rules, I’ve won a couple on him as well and as long as he stays I’ll think he’ll have a really good chance in the National.”
The 10-year-old was last seen finishing second to Sam Thomas’ Iwilldoit in the Welsh National Trial at Chepstow in early December, gaining valuable experience around the same track as the big race itself.
Colorado Doc will run off a rating of 134, leaving him to carry just 10st should he make the cut when the final field takes shape.
“I was really pleased with him that day, it was only seven days after he ran at Newbury and we were risking it a bit, but we thought it looked like it had cut up a little bit on paper. We couldn’t have been happier with him, he jumped very well and was just beaten by quite a good horse on the day,” Brace said.
“The confirmations are on Tuesday – we’ll know a lot more then (about getting in), but it’s probably looking more likely that he will than he won’t. We’ll have everything crossed, anyway.
“I think that mark has got in seven out of the last eight years, you’d only be carrying 10st which is a great weight to have in a competitive race like that. If he runs to that mark or a bit better then he’d have a very good each-way chance.”
Colorado Doc seems versatile with regards to ground, winning on surfaces ranging from good to heavy throughout his career.
“Good to soft is ideal, but he’ll go on anything really which a lot of horses don’t, it makes placing him pretty easy to be honest,” said Brace.
Brace is based with Cotswold trainer Fergal O’Brien, who provides him with the majority of his rides and has been a great support throughout the jockey’s struggles with successive injuries.
“I broke my arm a couple of years ago and missed the Cheltenham Festival, and then this Festival just gone I had a couple of rides booked for Fergal on the Friday and broke my arm on the Thursday again,” he explained.
“I was out for about 10 or 12 weeks with that and I came back, I was riding for two weeks and I actually broke my collarbone. It was a very quiet start to the season as it came off my sternum, but hopefully I’ll get going a bit now.
“Fergal has been massive for me really. I’d just ridden out my claim and things were steady enough anyway and Fergal backed me the whole way through that when I had a quiet patch with injuries. Without him the ball definitely would not have started rolling again.”
O’Brien trains the aforementioned Paint The Dream for the Brace’s grandfather, another bay gelding bred at Dunraven Stud and a horse that Brace has ridden throughout the majority of his career.
“He was born and bred at my gramps and he’s been a very good horse for us so far,” he said.
“I think he’s going to run on the same day as Colorado Doc at Chepstow, he goes in the two-and-a-half-mile open handicap chase there.
“We’ve sorted a few things out since he ran at Cheltenham (12th in the Paddy Power Gold Cup), he just didn’t hit the line that day. Hopefully he can get back to how good he looked when he won at Chepstow at the start of the year.
“Even if we don’t bring home any winners, I’m sure everyone will have a great day out anyway – it’s great to be part of it.”
The Welsh National is a coveted prize for any jockey, but success in the race is naturally more significant to a Welshman and would be even more treasured by Brace considering the family connection to his horse.
“A lot of people in Wales would know about it, a lot of school friends and friends from home. It’s a race in Wales that everyone knows, so to win it would be great, we’d be delighted,” he said.
“It’s great for anyone to have a ride in a big race, but mine is for my grandad and knowing the horse this long makes it a little bit more special – to win it would just be the icing on the cake.”
While Colorado Doc would rightly be celebrated if he were to triumph at Chepstow, another member of his family is already revered in the industry as he is a half-brother to Henry de Bromhead’s all-conquering unbeaten hurdler Honeysuckle.
Brace’s grandfather at one point owned the mare that produced both horses, giving the family another equine star to follow throughout the National Hunt season.
“My gramp used to have the mare, First Royal, then he sold her after having Colorado Doc,” said Brace, who is currently 65th in the jump jockeys’ championship.
“He’s not quite as good as his sister, but he’s good in his own right anyway. We’re always keeping an eye on her and we’ve always watched her.
“If Colorado Doc had been a mare it would have been quite handy, I think!”