The Welsh Grand National is steeped in a rich history that spans over a century. This article will take you on a journey through the race’s illustrious past and its legendary winners and provide you with expert tips on how to pick a winner in this iconic race.
The Origins of The Welsh Grand National
The Welsh Grand National was first run in 1895 at Ely Racecourse in Cardiff. The race was moved to Newport Racecourse in 1948 after World War II and then relocated to its current venue (Chepstow Racecourse) in 1949.
The first Chepstow winner of the race was ridden by Dick Francis, a renowned jockey turned author. The race is traditionally held on December 27th, providing a thrilling climax to the festive period for horse racing enthusiasts.
Legendary Winners of The Welsh Grand National
Over the years, the Welsh Grand National has seen some legendary winners. Below we’ll take a look at some of the most memorable:
Rag Trade was a real star in the horse racing world back in the 70s. This horse was something special, winning the Welsh Grand National in 1976, showing off his stamina and jumping skills.
His trainer, Fred Rimell, must have been over the moon with that win. But Rag Trade wasn’t done yet. A few months later, he won the Aintree Grand National, beating the legendary Red Rum into second place!
This bay gelding was trained by the legendary Jenny Pitman, who was known for her skill in preparing horses for the most challenging steeplechase races.
Corbiere’s most notable achievements came in the early 1980s. In 1982, he won the Welsh Grand National under the guidance of 23-year-old jockey Ben de Haan. He made a strong late run to claim his first major race. He defeated Pilot Officer by a small margin, while Peaty Sandy, the winner of the previous year’s race, came in a distant third.
Following his success in the Welsh Grand National, Corbiere went on to achieve an even greater feat. In 1983, he won the Aintree Grand National, one of the most prestigious and challenging races in the world. This victory made Corbiere one of the few horses to have won both the Welsh Grand National and the Aintree Grand National.
Corbiere’s victories in these two races secured his place in horse racing history. His achievements are a testament to his exceptional talent and the skill of his trainer, Jenny Pitman. His success also highlights the excitement and unpredictability of National Hunt racing, where a horse from a small stable can achieve the highest honours in the sport.
Another notable Welsh National winner is Earth Summit, who took a clean sweep of the English, Welsh and Scottish Grand National titles between 1994 and 1998.
Earth Summit won the Welsh Grand National in 1997, three years after he won the Scottish Grand National. He was trained by the legendary Martin Pipe, who is known for his skill in preparing racehorses capable of achieving greatness. In 1998 Earth Summit rode into the history books by becoming the first horse to win all three of the major Grand National races.
Dream Alliance is a remarkable horse with an equally remarkable story. Born in 2001, he was bred by a syndicate from a small Welsh village. The syndicate, made up of 23 individuals, was led by Jan Vokes, a barmaid at a local men’s club. Each syndicate member contributed £10 a week to cover the costs of training and care.
Dream Alliance was bred from a mare named Rewbell, who was bought at an auction for £300. Despite his humble beginnings, Dream Alliance showed promise from an early age. He was trained by Philip Hobbs, one of the UK’s leading National Hunt trainers.
In 2009, Dream Alliance achieved the unthinkable. He won the Welsh Grand National, which was even more remarkable considering that Dream Alliance had suffered a potentially career-ending injury in 2008. He had severed a tendon in his front leg, but thanks to pioneering stem cell treatment and the unwavering faith of his owners, he made a full recovery.
The story of Dream Alliance is a testament to the power of belief and the love of a community. It shows that with passion and dedication, even the most unlikely of dreams can come true. The story of Dream Alliance was so inspiring that it was turned into a documentary film, “Dark Horse: The Incredible True Story of Dream Alliance,” which was released in 2015.
The Course and Its Challenges
The Welsh Grand National is run over a distance of about 3 miles and 5.5 furlongs, making it one of the longest National Hunt races in the UK.
The course is known for its demanding nature, with 23 fences to be jumped. The ground is often heavy, adding to the challenge for the horses and jockeys. This makes the race a true test of stamina and jumping ability.
The Coral Welsh Grand National is an annual race that happens on the day after Boxing Day. Since it takes place during the winter season, the weather is typically wet, cold, and windy.
Unfortunately, the race has been cancelled six times due to harsh weather conditions (1969, 1975, 1977, 1978, 1995, and 1996). In some cases, the race is delayed by a week as well. This happened in 2020, which led to the race actually taking place in 2021.
Tips for Picking a Winner
Picking a winner in the Welsh Grand National can be a daunting task, given the challenging nature of the race and the quality of the competition. However, there are a few tips that can increase your chances of success.
Look for Stamina: Given the length and demanding nature of the race, a horse with proven stamina is a must. Look for horses that have performed well in other long-distance races.
Check the Ground: The ground at Chepstow can often be heavy, which suits certain horses better than others. Check the ground conditions on the day of the race and look for horses that perform well in similar conditions.
Consider the Weight: The Welsh Grand National is a handicap race, meaning horses carry different weights based on their perceived ability. Horses carrying less weight have a statistical advantage, so consider this when making your selection.
Form is Key: Look for horses that are in good form leading up to the race. A horse that has been performing well in recent races is likely to carry that form into the Welsh Grand National.
Experience Counts: The Welsh Grand National is a challenging race, so experience can be a significant factor. Horses that have run well in the race before or have experience in other big races may have an edge.
The Welsh Grand National is more than just a horse race; it’s a celebration of endurance, skill, and tradition. Whether you’re a seasoned punter or a casual observer, the thrill of picking a winner in this historic race is unmatched. Remember, the key to success lies in careful analysis and understanding of the race’s unique characteristics.
Betting on the Welsh National?
Most bookmakers offer fixed odds bets. However, the betting firm Coral often offers the best deals on the race. As the race sponsor, Coral offers enhanced odds, each way place terms and special bets that are only available when betting on the Welsh Grand National.
Punters can also bet on the race through exchanges like Betfair. Exchanges allow punters to back or lay a horse, meaning you can back a horse in the hope of making a profit or lay a horse so you will make a profit if it loses.
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In addition, many online bookmakers offer bets on the day of the race and during the week leading up to it. Punters should shop around for the best odds and offers.
The Impact of The Welsh Grand National
The Welsh Grand National is not just a race; it’s an event that brings together communities and contributes significantly to the local economy.
The race attracts thousands of spectators yearly, boosting local businesses and creating a festive atmosphere that resonates throughout the region. The race also garners significant media attention, further enhancing its status as one of the premier events in the horse racing calendar.
The Future of The Welsh Grand National
The future of the Welsh Grand National looks bright. With increasing prize money and growing interest from top trainers and jockeys, the race is set to continue its tradition of thrilling finishes and memorable moments.