The marathon Welsh Grand National is the cornerstone of Chepstow’s racing calendar and provided one of the stories of last season when young James Bowen steered Raz De Maree to success. Last seasons’ winner seems like a logical starting point when trying to dissect this race.
Gavin Cromwell’s stable star is an out and out stayer who will relish any rain that falls on the Welsh track. He may have a trio of “duck eggs” to his name this season but this race will have been the plan and he only has a two pound higher mark than last year. For those trivia buffs among you, if he can complete back to back victories, he will be the first horse to win the race twice in the same calendar year.
Colin Tizzard who took this in 2016 with Native River is responsible for this year’s favourite Elegant Escape. He placed in three Garde 1’s last season and began this season in fine form with a victory in a listed event and then a credible second behind Sizing Tennessee in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury. He was dropped four pounds for that second and with his obvious class, he could be tough to beat.
Ramses De Teille racked up his third victory at Chepstow when winning the trail for this race earlier in the month. He has been a much-improved horse since being sent chasing but I would have serious reservations about his getting the trip.
Ross O’Sullivan sends over Baie Des Iles here but the popular grey will have to bounce back following a dismal seasonal reappearance in Auteuil. He finished fifth in this race behind Native River in 2016 off a mark of 143 and runs here off only a one pound higher mark. He is definitely a better horse now and could be a shining light through the slog.
Another Irish runner making the journey is the Gordon Elliott trained Folsom Blue. He has been a great acquisition for the Core Syndicate who have had this race in mind since he finished fourth in the Irish National last season. Gordon has kept him over hurdles since that win and his latest fourth behind Paisley Park was franked in no uncertain manner by the winner. He has a nice racing weight and will have the assistance of leading amateur jockey Jamie Codd.
Others to consider include top-weight Ballyoptic and Vieux Lion Rouge.
Selection: Folsom Blue