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Yala Enki and Truckers Lodge take National chance for Paul Nicholls

The Paul Nicholls-trained duo of Yala Enki and Truckers Lodge remain at the head of the weights for Saturday’s Coral Welsh Grand National at Chepstow following the final declaration stage.

Yala Enki finished runner-up to Potters Corner 12 months ago under Bryony Frost and the partnership stays intact as the 11-year-old bids to make it third time lucky, having been third in 2018 when trained by Venetia Williams.

There was only one withdrawal from the five-day entries for the marathon chase, with the aforementioned Williams not declaring Didero Vallis. She instead relies on Cloudy Glen.

Evan Williams’ Secret Reprieve has headed the betting since winning the trial for the race and as the original weights stand, he looks well-in off just a 4lb penalty. Williams also runs Prime Venture.

David Pipe saddles Ramses De Teillee and Vieux Lion Rouge, while Springfield Fox represents Tom George.

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The Two Amigos, who ran so well last year, a previous Scottish National winner in Joe Farrell and Lord Du Mesnil, second at the Cheltenham Festival in March, are among the other contenders.

Nicky Martin, who trains The Two Amigos, believes the nine-year-old is better shape than he was when fifth in this race last season.

The Two Amigos (right) is reported to be in good form ahead of the Coral Welsh Grand National
The Two Amigos (right) is reported to be in good form ahead of the Coral Welsh Grand National (David Davies/PA)

“Fingers crossed it’s on which would be amazing,” the Somerset trainer told Sky Sports Racing.

“I think he’s in better form this year than he was last year. He’s very fresh and ready to go.

“The softer the ground the better. With it being covered it could be quite holding by the time they take the covers off, that would be my only worry.”

A poignant winner would be Colin Tizzard’s Christmas In April, as this year the race is being run in memory of the trainer’s daughter, Kim Gingell.

There is also Grade One action scheduled with a field of eight set to face the starter in the Coral Finale Juvenile Hurdle.

Not surprisingly Gordon Elliott’s duo of Duffle Coat and Quilixios were not declared after the UK travel ban imposed by the Irish Government was extended until midnight on Friday.

Nassalam has so far looked a smart prospect in the making
Nassalam has so far looked a smart prospect in the making (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Gary Moore’s Nassalam has created a big impression in his short hurdling career to date, winning both his starts on these shores, and could be the one to beat.

“He hasn’t actually beaten anything yet. When he won first time he did the best time of the day, which he shouldn’t have done because he wasn’t extended, and also it was the fourth race on the card so he didn’t exactly have the best ground,” Moore said.

“He’s not a flashy work horse at home. His work before his first race was very average, but his work has improved as time has gone on.

“He works like a nice horse now, but before he ran first time he looked very average to me.”

The Pipe-trained Adagio was a winner at Cheltenham last time out and sets a solid standard, while Fergal O’Brien’s Elham Valley was impressive on his only start to date.

Bannister, Houx Gris, Mr Shady, Pyramid Place and Yggdrasil complete the field.

Frost confident as Yala Enki tries again at Chepstow

Bryony Frost reports Yala Enki in excellent shape as he bids to make it third time lucky in the rearranged Coral Welsh Grand National at Chepstow.

Frost will bid for more big-race glory in Saturday’s extended three-mile-five furlong showpiece – initially scheduled for December 27, the day after she steered Yala Enki’s stablemate Frodon to Grade One glory in the King George VI Chase at Kempton.

After finishing third in the 2018 renewal when trained by Venetia Williams, Yala Enki filled the same spot under Frost in the Grade Three marathon 12 months ago, on his second start for Paul Nicholls.

Although the pair made an early departure in last month’s Becher Chase at Aintree, Frost points out the evergreen 11-year-old’s second in a Grade Three at Cheltenham in November puts him in the mix once again.

She said: “He has schooled since Aintree – and if anything he is schooling even better than before, so we will ignore the mishap at Aintree.

“The Cheltenham run off top-weight was a mega run for him – and I really do feel he is better this year, in his work at home and just the way that he is.

“His jumping has seriously sharpened up, and Paul and Clifford (Baker, head lad) have been given him lots of schooling sessions which do him the world of good.

“It would have been nice for it to have gone ahead when it was supposed to, but he hasn’t dulled down when he was ready to rock and roll.”

Paul Nicholls will be represented by both Yala Enki and Truckers Lodge in the Coral Welsh Grand National (David Davies/PA)
Paul Nicholls will be represented by both Yala Enki and Truckers Lodge in the Coral Welsh Grand National (David Davies/PA)
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With testing conditions almost certainly guaranteed this weekend, Frost cites another box ticked in favour of Yala Enki, who is one of two runners in the race for Nicholls alongside last year’s runner-up Truckers Lodge.

She added: “The more testing it can become the better it is for him – so fingers are are firmly crossed that it will be on, come hail, rain, snow or whatever.

“If we get there and it’s raceable then I will be really looking forward to it, because he has stamina in abundance.

“It is a long way, but he is tough and he enjoys that sort of challenge.”

Frost is confident Yala Enki will not be out of his comfort zone early on either.

She said: “This race is like a cavalry charge at the start, and you have to find your position really fast.

“He has got plenty of pace on early doors. He likes to get travelling quickly, so he is perfect for that sort of start.

“It is all about a positive start and getting in a quick rhythm and staying out of trouble and trying to find your fences economically.”

Frost believes the switch back to regulation fences will be a positive step too, following Yala Enki’s first-fence fall last time.

She said: “When I say he is economical that was probably the trouble we had at Aintree – because he is used to where the guard rail is and how stiff a regulation fence is, and he knows exactly how much he needs to give respect to it.

“On his normal regulation fences he knows exactly what he has got to do. He doesn’t lose any energy by being too exuberant or giving it too much air.”

Ramses de Teillee and Tom Scudamore (left) get the better of Bryony Frost and Yala Enki in the Planteur At Chapel Stud Handicap Chase at Cheltenham in November (Alan Crowhurst/PA Images)
Ramses De Teillee and Tom Scudamore (left) get the better of Bryony Frost and Yala Enki in the Planteur At Chapel Stud Handicap Chase at Cheltenham in November (Alan Crowhurst/PA Images)

Frost blames herself for Yala Enki’s defeat on his return at Cheltenham, but she will not make the same mistake again.

“That race at Cheltenham is one I kick myself for – because I should have kicked harder down the hill, and it could have been a different story,” she said.

“But I was riding him from the horse I knew the year before.

“Now I know I can ask even more of him and that my petrol tank will last longer. We’ve got each other sussed now.”

Victory aboard Yala Enki would complete a whirlwind few weeks for Frost, who is still receiving the plaudits for her King George success.

She said: “The amount of love sent our way and for the team and Frodon has just been mad.

“I’m still talking about it and doing stories now. I think I’m blissfully ignorant to quite what we achieved that day.

“There are lots of little twists of fate that have come about. It is just so cool how something can come together in one big hit.”

Nicholls’ pair top 19 in Welsh National contention

Paul Nicholls’ duo of Yala Enki and Truckers Lodge remain at the head of the weights for Saturday’s rescheduled Coral Welsh Grand National at Chepstow.

Yala Enki has been third in the race for the past two seasons and is on a career-high handicap mark after a stirring comeback at Cheltenham when narrowly denied by Ramses De Teillee, who could reoppose. Yala Enki fell in the Becher Chase last time out.

Truckers Lodge proved his aptitude for marathon trips when second in this last season and winning the Midlands National at Uttoxeter just before racing shut down in March.

Evan Williams’ seven-year-old Secret Reprieve has been the ante-post favourite since winning a trial for this race last time out. He carries just a 4lb penalty for that success rather than running from his new mark.

Williams could also run Prime Venture.

Becher Chase winner Vieux Lion Rouge and 2018 Scottish National hero Joe Farrell are the two oldest runners left in the race at 12.

Lord Du Mesnil, placed at the Cheltenham Festival in March, and Venetia Williams’ Cloudy Glen are others towards the head of the weights.

Springfield Fox, The Two Amigos, who ran well in the race 12 months ago, and Christmas In April also feature among 19 confirmations.