Sky Sports Racing presenter Mike Cattermole is back to preview Saturday’s big race from Chepstow, the Coral Welsh Grand National Trial.
The Coral Welsh Grand National is one of the greatest staying handicap chases in the jumping calendar. Often a gruelling affair over the best part of three and three quarter miles, it is a true test.
So, it makes sense that the “trial”, the big race on the Chepstow card this Saturday, is just short of three miles. After all, you certainly don’t want a similar slog for a prep but at least you can get your eye in and get some idea whether your horse will enjoy the layout of the course with its famous undulations.
Indeed, the past two winners of the trial – Secret Reprieve and Iwilldoit – went on to win the big one itself. The majority of them here, except Caribean Boy, Elegant Escape (Welsh National winner in 2018), Bennys King, Farinet and Grand Mogul, hold an entry for the famous Christmas showpiece.
It’s good to soft, soft in places with no rain falling since 11mm last weekend. Be prepared for a foggy and chilly start to the day but it is likely to remain dry.
Last seen in February 2021 when he upset his much better fancied stablemate Clan Des Obeaux in the Denman Chase at Newbury, only to return with a slight tendon injury. Used to dominating small fields and probably best watched after his lengthy absence but he is unbeaten in two starts here on the course and is a C&D winner.
Looked a classy chaser in the making a couple of years ago over two and a half miles. Now the type who is capable of some smart form on his day and one of those came against a decent line-up at Kempton in January when winning for the first time at three miles. Only 3lb higher this time and is a little hard to predict – although lost a shoe on his last start at Ascot in February – but comes from a very powerful yard and, compared to a few here, it wouldn’t be the biggest surprise if he bounced back to form over a trip that he may well be suited by these days. Very interesting.
Won the Welsh National itself in 2018 but has been in and out since and took advantage of a much-reduced handicap mark (140 from a career high of 162) when winning a veterans event at Ascot in March. Didn’t show much on his first run back after eight months off at Cheltenham, although could be a bit sharper now. He’ll have to be, but is just 2lb higher than Ascot.
Very lightly raced over the past couple of seasons and pulled up on his last three starts. Yet to prove he stays three miles and a watching brief is best for now.
Time To Get Up
Out-and-out stayer who won the Midlands National at Uttoxeter in 2021 – off this mark – and was a respectable third when defending his crown this March. An encouraging run here over an inadequate trip would put him in the picture for the Welsh National itself.
Nicely handicapped on his win at Newbury last December and also when third to Bravemansgame there next time but has shown precious little since, being pulled up on two of his last three starts. Has time on his side but needs a revival and the stable has been quiet for some time now.
Plenty of chasing experience in France before joining Venetia Williams and didn’t take long to gain his first win in Britain at Sandown in March 2021. He was good again there last January, once more over two and a half miles, putting behind him a disappointing run in the December Gold Cup at Cheltenham. However, the season ended on a downbeat note when he looked a non-stayer over three miles (his only crack at the distance so far) back at Sandown and also when pulled up at Newbury. The type to offer more but has questions to answer for now, especially at the trip.
Won this very race in style (off 4lb lower) two years ago and went on to take the rescheduled Welsh National in January 2021. But he was off for almost a year afterwards and has been a shadow of the horse he had been since he has returned, including in the most recent Welsh National last December. Hard to fancy, but it would be good to see him show some spark again.
Looked to have a promising future when winning his second chase at Newton Abbot in May 2021, but suffered a setback and was off for 18 months until his return at Fontwell last month when he was pulled up after an uninspiring round of jumping. With a genius trainer who could easily turn him around and that, plus the fitting of cheekpieces, is what you are pinning your hopes on today.
Has a superb record around here, winning four from five over fences, including winning his last three starts all over the course and distance. Looked in great shape when reappearing here last month, jumping beautifully and drawing clear to score by a comfortable eight lengths against some admittedly moderate opposition. Raised 8lb for that but actually 10lb higher (as 2lb “wrong” in the handicap). Retains the cheekpieces he wore that day but this is a deeper field. Plus, his stable has been quiet since that win (14 runners, no wins) so, although a worthy favourite on his favourite course, there are some nagging risks attached at such a short price.
When we last saw him, almost two years ago, he was a chaser going places and won at Wetherby and Wincanton, both on soft ground. It is a lot to ask for him to be at his best after such a long absence and his stable has been winnerless now for six months. I wish him well, though.
Picked up by Devon trainer Gail Haywood, who has just a handful of horses, for just £11,000 at the Goffs Spring Sale in May from Nicky Henderson. Had won on his first chase start at Kelso in May 2021, jumping nicely, on his first run after a wind operation, but went the wrong way afterwards when his wind reportedly failed him again. That’s when he changed hands. Said to have shown no signs of those issues when training on the edge of Dartmoor for his new, more humble, connections, so let’s hope he at least completes! Clearly talented.
There are so many with questions to answer in this line-up, a few of them over the trip, or coming back after long absences, or having lost their form, so Wayfinder is the obvious favourite.
He is back at his favourite track and seems to be improving, but the form of his last win is nothing special and Rebecca Curtis has been very quiet recently.
He may be worth opposing with CARIBEAN BOY who was due to reappear at Ascot recently and is presumably ready to go.
He’s a touch inconsistent but the form of his Kempton win in January reads well in this context, he is only 3lb higher and definitely has further potential at this trip.
He might just be too classy for them at a best-priced 10-1 at the time of writing. Southfield Harvest is also worth watching.