Welsh Grand National Continues to Offer Cheltenham Festival Clues for Punters

It’s the showpiece occasion in the Welsh horseracing calendar, and has a habit of never disappointing.

The Welsh Grand National is a must-see event at Chepstow Racecourse, with the great and the good of the sport flocking to the venue to test their horses over the three-mile, six-furlong trip.

The 2021 edition, held back in December, was suitably entertaining, and for the third year in a row was won by a home favourite – Iwilldoit, running out of Sam Thomas’ Cardiff yard, was true to his name and defeated a quality field by some nine lengths. The eight-year-old follows Secret Reprieve and Potters Corner to complete a hat-trick of Welsh winners in the race.

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Perhaps the most surprising outcome of the race is that Iwilldoit isn’t being touted for a run at the Cheltenham Festival in March – especially so given how instructive the Welsh National has been of subsequent success at Prestbury Park.

Synchronised, the 2010 Welsh Grand National winner, and 2016’s Chepstow victor Native River both went on to triumph in the Cheltenham Gold Cup – the blue riband renewal of the whole festival.

Thomas himself rode Denman to success in the Gold Cup back in 2008, and that’s a horse that is on most observers’ shortlist of the ultimate Cheltenham Festival legends given his incredible rivalry with Kauto Star in the meeting’s flagship race.

So the Cardiff team knows what it takes to get the job done at Cheltenham, and the omens are good for future success at the Festival – on this occasion, however, Thomas has decided to keep his eight-year-old in check and potentially unleash him on the Aintree Grand National in April.

One former Welsh Grand National winner that looks set to head to Cheltenham is Potters Corner. The 2019 champion is on the longlist for the Festival’s Cross Country Chase, and while he disappointed at Chepstow in December, the 12-year-old had looked full of running when second to the excellent Diesel d’Allier at Prestbury Park just a few weeks earlier.

Could Welsh racing be celebrating another Cheltenham Festival champion in the spring?

National Pride

As well as being a useful arbiter of success at Cheltenham, the Welsh Grand National also holds insight into what could unfold in the Grand National at Aintree just a few weeks later.

Silver Birch won the Welsh National in 2004 and followed it up with glory at Aintree in 2007, while fellow Chepstow champions Monbeg Dude and Raz De Maree went on to finish third and eighth respectively in one of English racing’s most prestigious events.

As if to confirm the point, Native River followed his Welsh National triumph by winning the Mildmay Novices’ Chase – held on the same Aintree layout as the Grand National.

That perhaps helps to explain why Iwilldoit has been declared on the longlist for the Grand National, and at ante-post odds of 25/1 the Welsh raider finds himself sixth in the betting market at this early stage.

He could be joined in the field by fellow Welsh National champion Secret Reprieve, who is also priced at 25/1 at the time of writing. His trainer Evan Williams was pleased with his charge’s Chepstow return following a year out of racing, and hopes that the eight-year-old has a big run in him in 2022.

Who knows, perhaps Welsh racing could be enjoying a dual celebration on English soil come April?