Is the Welsh Grand National a good pointer for Aintree?

Potters Corner won the Welsh Grand National last season.
Potters Corner won the Welsh Grand National last season.

Joe Tuffin takes a statistical look at the Welsh Grand National held at Chepstow, and asks whether the festive showpiece is a good guide to the Grand National held at Aintree in the spring..

With its roots tracing back to 1895, the Welsh Grand National has become one of many must-watch races over the Festive period of late, producing some smart winners that have gone on to reach the very top of the National Hunt game. 

Strangely for a ‘National’, you don't tend to need to look too low down the market to find the winner, with only three winners since 2010 coming at a price of 10/1 or higher - meaning that each of Secret ReprieveSpringfield Fox, Yala Enki and Truckers Lodge could be worth a look as the only runners that fit the sub 10/1 trend. But will we see the winner of this go on to claim glory at Aintree in the Easter?

History has shown that the Welsh Grand National is a popular springboard for It’s bigger and tougher equivalent, the Aintree Grand National, though winning both variants of the race is a tricky achievement, one managed only four times since the race moved to Chepstow back in 1949. Corbiere was the first to do it, landing the Welsh prize in 1982 before scoring at Aintree in the same season, and Earth Summit managed the same before the close of the century in 1997 and 1998 - becoming the only horse to win the home countries Grand National treble after picking up the Scottish equivalent in 1994.

The race went through a bit of a golden patch in the early 2000 in regards to Aintree immortals, with Bindaree bagging at Chepstow in 2003 after success in the 2002 National, before Silver Birch landed the prize in 2004 and struck gold on Merseyside in 2007 - one of three appearances in the race for the stamina laden star. 

But the success is not just restricted to winners, Supreme Glory was a Welsh National hero in 2001 and was a very honourable 2nd at Aintree in 2003, with Monbeg Dude being another to hit the crossbar with a respectable third in 2015, two years after success across the border. The 2018 winner Raz De Maree was the last to head to Aintree, though last season’s winner Potters Corner was all set for a pop at Aintree until the Covid-19 pandemic cancelled those plans - a win in the virtual running of the race offering maybe a small consolation!

It is possibly obvious that, being a ‘Grand National’, the Welsh Christmas cracker serves as a pretty vital pointer towards the marathon event in April, and it is by no means unusual to see the winner fall in price in the antepost market, but it has been a while since we saw one do the double, and nowadays it’s been known to produce classier animals that have the Cheltenham Gold Cup on their radar. The much loved Colin Tizzard trained Native River was the most recent to do it after landing the biggest prize of them all a season after his 2016 Chepstow success, and the ill-fated Synchronised was another to strike gold at the Cheltenham Festival the year after winning the Welsh National - he of course went to Aintree as a well fancied 10/1 chance before fatally injuring himself whilst running loose.

Cheltenham Festival Races

Other names include Master Oats, who won both races in the same season back in 1994 & 1995, and Cool Ground who did it a few years earlier in 1990 and 1992. The most famous name to do it could well be Burrough Hill Lad, who won the Welsh National in 1983 before an illustrious career which saw him win a Charlie Hall, Hennessey Gold Cup, King George VI Chase and a Cheltenham Gold Cup - making him the seventh highest rated horse in the history of the sport with a Timeform rating of 184.

This year's renewal doesn’t look to have a Gold Cup champion elect amongst the line up with the highest rated horse being Yala Enki on 159 - who finished seventh in the 2019 Gold Cup at triple figure odds - but there are certainly a few Aintree hopefuls. The striking grey Ramses De Teillee was being aimed at the big one last season and will take his chance here, and there are ante-post quotes of 25/1 about Cloudy Glen, who looks like a real stayer in the making at only seven. The aforementioned Truckers Lodge is certainly one that could solidify his Aintree claims with a win here, and Vieux Lion Rouge is no stranger to the birch fences and could well add a Welsh National to his CV before a fourth crack at the National.

While the Welsh Grand National serves as a fascinating handicap, it hasn’t quite been producing bonafide National favourites of late, though its historic credentials as a stepping stone to both Aintree and Cheltenham are there for all to see and if we see one scoot up the Chepstow hill then you can fully expect the bigger spring prizes to be on their radar.

Cheltenham Festival Tips
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