Jumps Season - At The Races

Coral Welsh Grand National

    Chepstow, Tuesday 27th December 2016.
  • Stats Guides

Last Year's Winner: Mountainous

Mountainous
Jockey:
J E Moore
Trainer:
Miss Kerry Lee
Age:
11
Weight:
10st 6lb
Starting Price:
9/1
Season Form Figures:
536
Previous Best:
1st - Coral Welsh Grand National (Grade 3), Chepstow (Dec 2013)

The Coral Welsh Grand National remains the big betting race over Christmas but that was not always the case as it formerly took place in February in the 1970s and over Easter in the 1960s.

The winner has gone on to win the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup in the 1980s (Burrough Hill Lad), 1990s (Cool Ground and Master Oats) and since the turn of the century (Synchronised) but Carvills Hill’s performance to demolish his rivals by 20 lengths off 11st 12lb still takes some topping.

The future blue riband winners aside, the Welsh Grand National is more widely regarded as better guide to the Grand National. Corbiere (1982/82) and Earth Summit (1997/98) completed the double in the same season whereas Rhyme ‘n’ Reason (1987/88) and Party Politics (1991/92) both went one place better at Aintree than at Chepstow. Silver Birch also went on to win the Grand National two seasons after his success in 2004.

The Welsh Grand National used to be a strong favourites' race with the market leader scoring six times between 1988 and 1994 but just one of the last 19 market leaders (Silver Birch) has justified such market support.

That said, Synchronised and Halcon Genelardais were long-time ante-post favourites only to be replaced as market leader on the morning of the race and the only three semi-surprises in the last 40+ years were the successes of Earth Summit (25/1), Dream Alliance (20/1) and Mountainous (20/1).

Recent course form has been a big positive as 14 of the last 25 winners were given some match practice at Chepstow earlier in the same season. Eight of those 14 ran in the Rehearsal Chase which was moved to Newcastle in 2005 so the Chepstow factor should in theory not be as important but, still, five of the last seven winners had won at Chepstow before (Mountainous was winning the race for the second time last season) so course form remains highly significant, be it this season or in the past.

Recent course form has been a big positive as 14 of the last 25 winners were given some match practice at Chepstow earlier in the same season.

After a spell when higher-weighted horses started to perform with much more distinction (three winners between 2006 and 2010 carried 10st) following on from nine straight years of winners carrying under 11st, three of the last five winners have carried no more than 10st 1lb. Winners from outside the handicap are not uncommon in this race and Mountainous became the latest three years ago winning being 5lb wrong at the weights.

In keeping with the other major handicap chases run in the first half of the season, horses aged in double figures really struggle here so Mountainous was bucking the trend when successful at the age of 11 last season.

Since Rag Trade took this event back in 1976, prior to Mountainous, only the Martin Pipe-trained Riverside Boy has defied this statistic but that was a particularly poor renewal featuring just eight runners of which six were running from outside the handicap and half were fast approaching veteran status.

The Lee family have won three of the last five runnings, two for Richard and one for Kerry Lee in her debut season holding the licence last year. Venetia Williams has twice been successful and Paul Nicholls has won this slog twice including saddling a 1-2-3 in 2005. He has come very close in two of the last years to boot supplying the runner-up in photo finishes. Jonjo O’Neill has also landed the spoils twice since the turn of the century for J P McManus.

The Pipe team were dominant in this race winning five times in six seasons during the late-eighties and early-nineties but their touch in this contest appears to have deserted them having supplied just two placed runners from their last 36 contenders. Northern raiders have also failed to come to terms with this race of late. Their last winner was the Monica Dickinson-trained Righthand Man back in 1984 despite sending down plenty of leading fancies including three beaten favourites.

Three of the last six runnings have taken place in early January following abandonments which has led to calls for the race to remain in that place in the calendar to bolster what is a fairly quiet weekend.

If that is eventually the case then this next line of thinking may have to be readjusted as it seems pretty clear from evidence over the last quarter of a century that horses which take their chance here after a big run in the Hennessy Gold Cup have found it hard to get over those exertions in time so, the more time to recover, theoretically the better chance of giving their true running.

Given that second and third-season chasers have dominated both these staying prizes and there is only a month between the two races, a logical conclusion would be to support a horse that performed with distinction in the Newbury showpiece. However, no Hennessy runner has won the Welsh Grand National since Playschool completed the double in 1987 and many have been very well fancied since.

In fact, we have witnessed 12 horses start favourite or second-favourite at Chepstow off the back of a big effort at Newbury without success since 1987. It almost certainly leads to the conclusion that any horse that excelled in the Hennessy would, in all probability, need more than a month to recover from those exertions in another red-hot, staying handicap.

At a glance summary

Positives
A run at Chepstow earlier in the season
A victory at Chepstow earlier in their career
Trained by Kerry Lee, Paul Nicholls, Venetia Williams or Jonjo O’Neill
Negatives
Aged 10+
Hennessy Gold Cup runners
Trained by David Pipe
Northern-based raiders
The favourite

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