The rescheduled Welsh Grand National is without a doubt the feature race for Saturday and whilst many will be filing it under ‘impossible’ I’ll hopefully be able to shed some light on some angles using the brilliant Geegeez Gold as usual.
There has been no shortage of heavy ground Welsh Grand Nationals in the past so let’s see where the advantage tends to be with regards to pace.
It’s often the case that prominent racers can be favoured over hold up performers over shorter trips but even over this marathon trip it is still an advantage to be nearer the pace.
Win data is fairly limited here but there has been a strong advantage towards those that race prominently with an 11.36% win ratio, clear of front runners who have a 6.67%. Mid division and hold up have win ratios of just 4.29% and 2.67% respectively.
There is much more data in the place strike rates and this time around front runners lead the way in more way than one, they have a place strike rate of 33.33% which is marginally more impressive than prominent racers who have a place strike rate of 31.82%. These ratios drop off dramatically the further back in the field you go with mid division providing just 21.43% and hold ups are just 8%.
As far as market consideration goes, backing prominent racers blind for win purposes has been profitable whilst backing both prominent racers and those that race in mid division has been very profitable from an each way perspective whilst front runners are also slightly in profit. Hold up performers are in a big loss for both win and each way purposes.
With this data in mind the heat map for this race should make interesting reading with those that race just off the pace likely to be seen to best effect.
A possible contested pace here but the jockeys will surely be sensible in this ground and avoid setting a suicidal gallop. Early favourite Secret Reprieve seems likely to be a bit further back than ideal but racing in mid division isn’t a huge disadvantage. Dominatuer is relatively well fancied from the hold up performers and granted the usual riding tactics are employed he could struggle to even place, however he does enjoy Chepstow having won his last two races here.
The well fancied Springfield Fox is likely to take the field along and the top eight or so runners on the above pace map seem likely to be best placed as far as the course bias goes.
With such a big field to weigh up and some extreme going and distances on offer here, Instant Expert is a great way to quickly scan through the field and to judge each runner’s suitability to conditions.
The place data is often the best indicator as to what should run well and what shouldn’t. Hurdle form that proves ability to handle this distance or going would also be relevant here so that’s included in the filter.
The going doesn’t look an obvious negative for most of this field although The Hollow Ginge and Vieux Lion Rouge do have questions to answer.
It makes sense to open up the distance range a little as races at similar trips are also relevant here. There is plenty of placed form at this sort of trip but The Two Amigos and Vieux Lion Rouge remain slight questions marks despite some placed form according to Instant Expert whilst Big River, Bobo Mac and Captain Drake certainly have questions to answer having tried this sort of trip before and failed.
We’re going to narrow things significantly here to look at the win data.
Now we are looking at just handicap chases to get the most relevant data. There is still plenty of strong heavy ground form on offer here and the course records of Dominateur and Ramses De Teillee are also noteworthy.
The Two Amigos and Christmas In April are the only runners to have won more than once in this distance range whilst big field handicap form is fairly thin on the ground with only three runners here recording wins. Even if you look at wins across all races and codes only four runners have a 16+ runner race win (Secret Reprieve is the additional runner to have won in a 16+ runner field having beaten 15 runners in a novice hurdle here at Chepstow previously).
You’d think such big field races that have a habit of being run in atrocious conditions would have plenty of shocks but picking the winner of this in recent years hasn’t been the challenge it could have been.
Eight of the last ten winners of this have started the race at 10/1 or shorter. Obviously we don’t know exactly which horses are going to go off at what prices at this stage but this is clearly a race where the form book stands up and the chances are one of those in the first six or seven in the betting are going to be triumphant once again.
So with this race being less of a lottery than it could be let’s delve more into the form.
It’s quite easy to see why Secret Reprieve is the warm favourite in this race. He carries a 4lb penalty for winning a course handicap by 12 lengths last time out (The Two Amigos was 2nd). He’s lightly raced, open to more improvement and has won both his starts on heavy ground. He does have to prove himself over this trip though and his sire is just 2 from 42 at this distance so he’s short enough with those doubts in mind.
Springfield Fox was noted as being the likely front runner in this contest but he too has to prove himself over this sort of test. Rider Sean Bowen has a 21.88% strike rate here at Chepstow over the past five years and he’s produced a WIN PL of 45.25 so he should be relied upon to get the fractions right from the front but his stamina will be going into unchartered waters here.
Truckers Lodge hasn’t run since unseating his rider back in October and that is potentially a longer break than you’d want heading into this but surely Paul Nicholls knows what is right for the horse. He was 2nd to Potters Corner in this a year ago off a similar break so there shouldn’t be any concern over the absence and there are certainly no question marks about the conditions. That race worked out well too but in helping frank that form with an 18 length victory in the Midlands Grand National in March he goes into this year’s race 17lbs higher so he’s going to need to be a much better horse this time around to defy that mark.
Christmas In April brings plenty of staying form into this and looks an interesting contender. He’s failed to win in two runs here but was a solid 2nd just over a year ago when staying on well over half a mile shorter behind a subsequent winner (3rd and 4th also franked the form since). He won easily over this trip at Exeter in February on similar ground and is now only 7lbs higher so he looks to have a leading chance having finished a creditable 2nd last time out (the 3rd won next time out). There are probably better handicapped horses in this field but it’s all about finding the best handicapped horse IN THESE CONDITIONS and he is right up there.
Dominateur loves it here and shouldn’t be judged harshly on his defeat last time out when he had plenty to find with his two rivals at the weights. He’s been well beaten on his last three runs though so his current well being is a worry, as is his ability to make up plenty of ground over his rivals in this contest with prominent racers often favoured. He remains with potential but has many questions to answer, including stamina concerns.
Lord Du Mesnil ran okay at best over the Grand National fences at Aintree last time out but that run came over a mile shorter so isn’t the biggest concern. He has run at this trip before, in the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham, and he was a creditable 2nd there. His previous run had come when 2nd again in the Haydock Grand National trial on heavy ground so he has ticks for both the going and the distance here. It looks as though he’s been targeted at this all season so far with a run over hurdles blowing the cobwebs away followed by a run over a distance too short. His trainer has an IV of 2.01 in this distance range and he looks likely to outrun his odds.
The Two Amigos has plenty of ground to make up on Secret Reprieve based on their last meeting but he does have a 4lb swing and crucially an extra 7f to race over. We know he stays well enough as he was 5th in this last year and that race worked out well so there was no disgrace in being beaten 10 lengths. However this year’s race could be just as strong and he runs off the same mark (8lbs higher than his last winning mark) so doesn’t look well enough handicapped to land this for all he could easily run into the places.
One place, and 6 lengths ahead of The Two Amigos in the last running of this race was Prime Venture and he’s only 4lbs higher so should be able to confirm that form everything else being equal. He was ridden a bit more patiently than the other placed runners and has seemingly been ridden a bit more prominently in a few races since so could be seen to even better effect this time around. A last time out win was his first over fences so could act as a confidence booster and he’s capable of going well.
Yala Enki was also placed last year which means the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th from the previous renewal are all reopposing. He was ideally placed last time around but he too is only 4lbs higher again this year so must be in with some sort of chance. He’s the top weight here which won’t be ideal in stamina sapping conditions and is unlikely to get his own way out in front so a place might be the best thing to aim for again.
Ramses De Teillee bumped into Yala Enki at Cheltenham in November over 3f shorter and there was just a short head between the pair on that occasion and they are handicapped to finish together once again. The pair also met in this race in 2018 when they were 2nd and 3rd. Ramses De Teillee was 4 lengths ahead that day and is now only 4lbs worse off. It’s easy to see why he and Yala Enki are the same sort of price this time around but slight preference from the pair would be for Ramses De Teillee.
It's not only a ten horse race but previous renewals have told us the winner is very likely to come from that group judging by the current market. There are many here that seem likely to run well and would probably appeal as place only bets but many of the solid contenders look far less convincing for win only purposes.
Lord Du Mesnil is very interesting and is presumably being campaigned around this and the Aintree Grand National this year. He’s worth covering as a saver each way but the main selection here is going to be Christmas In April who seems to tick pretty much all the necessary boxes and comes here in very good form with more to come.