After waiting 54 years for a home winner at the Welsh Grand National, two came along one after the other. Talk about London bus syndrome. This year on December 27, trainers and jockeys from across the country will be out in force to bid for a third consecutive victory. Now that would be something special.
Wales is in with a decent shot at success, but the UK horse racing industry is about as competitive as it gets, particularly over fences. And with Cheltenham 2022 on the horizon after Chepstow, several quality runners will be aiming to shake off the cobwebs.
— ITV Racing (@itvracing) January 9, 2021
Secret Reprieve the Favourite for Back-to-Back Wins
Secret Reprieve won the 2020 Welsh Grand National as trainer Evan Williams claimed his first win in the race and was finally featured on the Paddy Power racing results page after coming close several times. Williams will be hoping he can do the same again since Secret Reprieve is the 5/1 favourite to win the race on December 27. After all, the bay gelding has plenty of plus points.
As the reigning champion and twice runner-up (third and fourth in the past), Secret Reprieve has no problems with the course or the distance, two things that catch out less-experienced runners that aren’t used to jumping fences over three miles and six furlongs. He has also won at Chepstow in different conditions, most notably in December 2020 when he beat The Two Amigos on heavy ground.
A few top competitors will put him to the test, such as Ask Me Early (8/1 second-favourite). Although, the record of the Harry Fry-trained gelding doesn’t suggest he has the stamina to last the distance.
Potters Corner Over the Hill?
Another home favourite is Potters Corner. His last major result was in the Welsh Grand National, though this was back in 2019. Since then, Christian Williams’ mount has entered seven events and won none of them. More worryingly, he’s been pulled up three times and finished last once, highlighting the horse’s decline.
When you consider the level of talent on show in a couple of weeks, your fears won’t be allayed. For example, former Gold Cup-winner Native River is part of a team Colin Tizzard is sending to Wales. On the other hand, Paul Nicholls has Yala Enki up his sleeve, a horse that recently won a Group race at Cheltenham.
Therefore, Potters Corner’s odds of 20/1 aren’t as competitive as they seem on the surface. Unless Chepstow brings something out of him that we haven’t seen in a while, Secret Reprieve will carry the weight of the Red Dragons on his shoulders.
Royale Pagaille Could Be the Best of the Bunch
On paper, Royale Pagaille hasn’t achieved a great deal. There are a few wins here and there, but nothing overly impressive. Whilst a handful of handy runs has ensured Venetia Williams’ French import has reputable stock, you have to question when it’s talent and when it’s bluster.
At the Haydock Betfair Chase, Royale Pagaille showed glimpses of what he can do, even though the conditions weren’t in his favour. All Venetia Williams’ horses love the heavy ground, and this one is no different, but he finished a creditable second to A Plus Tard. The Yorkshire Post said that Rachael Blackmore won by a country mile, yet she did it on a horse that is now the 3/1 favourite for the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Considering that the Welsh National is only a Group 3 event, Royale Pagaille has fantastic credentials. If it rains, the gelding’s odds of 14/1 will quickly be snapped up by knowledgeable punters.
Secret Reprieve deserves to be the favourite because he knows the course like the back of his hand. Still, the quality may rise to the top, meaning Yala Enki and Royale Pagaille will be right behind him coming off the bend.