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The Welsh National is another of the National Hunt highlights over Christmas, and the race is run at Chepstow racecourse on Saturday 27th December. A strong field of 26 runners are lined up for the event, which is a stamina-sapping 3 miles and 5 furlongs.
This is a Grade 3 handicap, and we can gain some useful pointers from the previous runnings of the race. Age can play a significant factor in the result, with all of the last ten winners aged six, seven, or eight. In fact, the last time a horse older than nine won the race was as far back as 1993.
The horses at the top of the weights tend to do well in handicaps, as they are carrying the extra weight because they are rated the highest. This is a trend which is exaggerated in the Welsh National, and heavier-weighted runners have fared better in the race than is the national average in handicaps. Although the last three winners have all been low in the handicap, horses carrying 10-10 or more have a slightly better record overall.
Backing a horse in good form seems like an obvious thing to do when picking a runner, but this is another trend which is pronounced in the Welsh National. Five of the last ten winners had won their previous race, and that’s a statistic which is hard to ignore.
Prominent horses tend to go well in this race, and Chepstow is often referred to as a front-running track as the run-in features six fences and an undulating surface which makes it harder to make up ground on horses in front. These types of races, where trouble in running can easily be encountered, are also favourable for horses at the head of affairs, so it makes sense to look for one who can be handily positioned throughout.
Recent winners have achieved ratings of 137 or more, and the winner could go on to have a big say in the top chases for the rest of the season.
Last year’s winner, Mountainous, returns to defend his crown again this year, but the market is headed by top weight, Shotgun Paddy.
Emma Lavelle’s ante-post favourite has been left at the top of the weights after the expected defections of Harry Topper and Unioniste, who have other fish to fry. Shotgun Paddy finished 5th of 6 in the three-mile Bet365 Long Distance Hurdle on his reappearance at Newbury, but he will strip a lot fitter for it, and has been aimed at this race. He finished a fine neck-second to Midnight Prayer in the Amateur Rider’s Novice’s Chase over four miles at Cheltenham in March, and he will certainly have the stamina for this testing race.
The winner of that race at Cheltenham, Midnight Prayer, opposes Shotgun Paddy again, but he was beaten a long way on his reappearance in the Hennesey Gold Cup, and its not certain he will improve enough for the run. However, it could also be argued that that race was too short for him, and he clearly loves this type of real test of stamina. Could be doing his best work at the end.
Paul Carberry produced a thrilling finish on Monbeg Dude to win this race from Teaforthree two years ago, and he will run again at the scene of that famous victory. He finished a creditable 4th in the Hennesey Gold Cup on his reappearance and his trainer, Michael Scudamore, has suggested he could be targeted at the Grand National, depending upon what happens here at Chepstow. Like Midnight Prayer, Monbeg Dude is nine years old, and that is a stat which may go against them, and they could be vulnerable to an up-and-coming, well-handicapped horse.
The David Pipe trained Amigo has risen in the weights from out of the handicap, after the five-day confirmation stage, and that’s good news for connections. He will carry 10-8 and comes into the race in good form, after finishing second in the National Trial at Chepstow over three miles earlier in December. He’s bound to come on for that run, and clearly loves a test of stamina. He finished 7th in the race last year, and as a seven year-old in decent form he fits the bill.
Phillip Hobb’s horse, Gas Line Boy, is our selection for the race, as he ticks all the boxes and comes at a decent each-way price. He’s 8 years-old and will carry 11-10 in the race, so meets the profile for age and weight. He’s also in excellent form having won on his seasonal reappearance this season. He took the Betfair Home of Price Rush Handicap Chase at Haydock Park over the same distance as the Welsh National, winning comfortably by 13 lengths. He may need to improve again to land this race, but he’s still fairly lightly-raced and could be primed for a big performance. He won’t have any problem with the ground, the track or the distance, and tends to take a prominent position tracking the leaders in his races.
There are plenty of other contenders in the race, which is a notoriously tough affair, and we haven’t even mentioned the likes of Benvolio, Hawkes Point, Mountainous, and One in a Milan; each of whom come into the race with a good chance. In such a big field it often pays to look for an each-way bet, and most bookies are offering 1/4 of the odds for a first four finish. Gas Line Boy has all the credentials to run a big race, and can give us a good run for our money at a decent each-way price.
Coral Welsh National
Chepstow racecourse, 2.35pm Saturday 27th December