There are many excellent elements to the festive season, from Santa’s latest under-the-tree offering to a higher-than-healthy mince pie consumption, and quality time with the family. Also in the mix is one of the most jam-packed sporting schedules of the year, including a red-hot horse racing programme. Kempton kicks things off with the King George on Boxing Day, and fans don’t have too long to wait for the next huge staying chase, with Chepstow’s Welsh Grand National fixture traditionally taking place on the 27th of December. A marathon 3m6½f is the trip for the biggest event of the season at the Monmouthshire track, with 23 fences standing between the field and the lion’s share of £150,000 (2022) in total prize money.
In common with its Aintree inspiration, the Welsh Grand National falls into the Grade 3 handicap category and is invariably one of the classiest events of its type of the year. The current century alone has seen the race won by Aintree Grand National heroes Silver Birch and Bindaree, in addition to Cheltenham Gold Cup kings, Synchronised and Native River. Here, we look back at the 21st-century results (2000 to 2022), examining the weight, age, rating, and form trends ahead of one of the biggest betting heats of the winter months.
Welsh Grand National: Age Trends 2000 to 2022
Whilst the race is officially open to runners aged four and older, no horse younger than six has ever come home in front. Relative youth has, however, been favoured of late, with 20 of the 23 (87%) editions examined falling to a horse between six and nine years of age, with the eight-year-olds faring best of all. The big outlier is 2017 champ Raz De Maree, who became the oldest winner in the history of the race when landing the prize for Gavin Cromwell at the grand old age of 13.
Welsh Grand National: Weight Trends 2000 to 2022
Monaleen won this under a featherweight of 9st7lb back in 1955, but the minimum weight has risen steadily over the years and these days sits at 10st2lb. No horse will be asked to carry more than 12st at the other end of the scale.
High-class operator Native River defied 11st12lb in 2016, but overall, this stamina-sapping affair has strongly favoured those with a lesser burden. Again looking at the 23 editions between 2000 and 2022, 19 of 23 (82.61%) winners carried 11st or less on the day, 16 of whom snuck in towards the foot of the weights on 10st6lb or less.
Welsh Grand National: Rating of Winner 2000 to 2022
There is no obvious trend in evidence at first glance. However, it is interesting to note that, despite the high number of low-weighted winners, the rating of the winner is trending upward – suggesting that the overall quality of the race is increasing. Jonjo O’Neill’s Mini Sensation is the lowest-rated winner over this period, having prevailed off a mark of 125 in 2002. Topping the pile is 155-rated champ Native River (2016) – a high mark, but considering we went on to achieve a rating of 172, he was most likely pretty well in on the day. The average rating of the winner over this timeframe sits a fraction below 140.
Welsh Grand National: Finishing Position Last Time Out 2000 to 2022
The stats suggest that anyone backing a runner to bounce back from a poor performance to win this race may be up against it. An impressive 43% of winners also scored on their previous outing, 69% had finished in the first three on their most recent start, and none of the 23 winners finished outside the first six on their previous run.
Prep Runs a Big Advantage 2000 to 2022
By December each year, most chasers will be well underway for the season, and the stats suggest that at least one tune-up run is needed to prevail here, with none of the past 23 winners making their seasonal return in this event. Two runs appear to be the magic number, with just over half of the winners scoring on their third start of the campaign.
Welsh Grand National: Fate of the Favourite 2000 to 2022
Big field handicap affairs such as this can often prove a tricky puzzle to solve, and such has been the case in this event. The 2000 to 2022 period saw just the four winning favourites, handing jolly backers a loss of £7.42 to £1 level stakes. The shortest-priced winner in this time frame was the Evan Williams-trained Secret Reprieve, who landed an impressive gamble when scoring at odds of 5/2 in 2020.
Despite the scarcity of winning favourites, there have been few huge shocks in the early part of the 21st Century, with the longest-priced winners being 20/1 shots Dream Alliance (2009) and Mountainous (2013). Mountainous returned to win again in 2015, whilst the rags-to-riches tale of Dream Alliance inspired the 2020 movie Dream Horse.
Welsh Grand National: Other Stats 2000 to 2022
- Unsurprisingly, given the demanding distance, a proven ability to stay has proven essential, with 21 of the 23 winners between 2000 and 2022 having previously scored over at least three miles. The odd two out had won over 2m7½f.
- Five trainers have won this twice in the current century – Colin Tizzard, Jonjo O’Neill, Paul Nicholls, Richard Lee, and Venetia Williams. Richard’s daughter Kerry kept the family tradition going when saddling Mountainous to the second of his victories in 2015.
- This hasn’t been a strong race for fans of jockey trends, with the 23 editions examined being spread between 21 different riders. Only Tom O’Brien and Leighton Aspell scored more than once.
- Mountainous’s sire Milan, and Flemensfirth (Emperor’s Choice 2014, Secret Reprieve 2020) are the only stallions to have produced more than one winner over this period.