The 2021 renewal of the Coral Welsh Grand National has attracted 63 entries, including four previous winners of the race. Scheduled for Monday 27 December at Chepstow Racecourse, the Coral Welsh Grand National is the biggest race in Wales and a highlight of the Christmas racing programme in Britain.
The Evan Williams-trained Secret Reprieve followed up a win in last year’s Welsh National Trial with a comfortable victory in the big race itself. Having narrowly missed out on a spot in the 2021 Grand National at Aintree, Secret Reprieve has not raced since his Chepstow victory in 2020 and is only six pounds higher than last year. He has a great chance of giving Wales a third consecutive success in the Chepstow marathon.
Potters Corner took the race in 2019 for Welsh owners All Star Sports, trainer Christian Williams and jockey Jack Tudor, a winning combination not achieved since 1928. Millions will have seen the horse land the Virtual Grand National of 2020
Elegant Escape won the Welsh National in 2018 and was sixth the following year, but has been off the course since the 2020 Cheltenham Gold Cup. Now that the Tizzard stable is back among the winners, and Elegant Escape has dropped six pounds from his peak, he would be hard to beat if back to his best.
Also trained by the Tizzard family, Native River was victorious in the Coral Welsh Grand National in 2016, going on to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup in a stirring duel with Might Bite and has maintained a high standard of form since. Galloping tracks suit this bold jumper and even though he’s nearing his twelfth birthday he has to be respected.
Other entries of note include the tremendously consistent Yala Enki, who has won 12 races and finished third in the last three runnings of the Welsh National. A pillar-to-post win at Cheltenham’s November meeting over almost three and a half miles shows he is as good as ever, despite approaching his twelfth birthday. Trainer Paul Nicholls has won the race twice, in 2004 with Silver Birch and 2005 with L’Aventure and will no doubt be looking for a third win.
Also from the Nicholls yard, Truckers Lodge has a fine record at Chepstow (1124127), the last two figures representing his Welsh National performances. He won the Midlands National over four and a quarter miles by 18 lengths in 2020, so stamina is not a problem.
Harry Fry has had this race in mind for his dual course winner Ask Me Early since finishing first at Uttoxeter on Midlands National day earlier this year. The grey has won four of his last five starts, the most recent a novice hurdle at Exeter at the beginning of November, demonstrating his wellbeing.
Royale Pagaille was a revelation last season, with a midwinter hat-trick culminating in a wide-margin win in the Peter Marsh at Haydock. A tilt at the Gold Cup went awry, but back on softer ground at Chepstow, Venetia Williams’ seven-year-old will be very dangerous if staying the distance.
Mac Tottie’s victory in the Grand Sefton at Aintree in early November for Peter and James Bowen marked him out as a future Grand National contender. That was over two miles five furlongs, so running in the Welsh National over a mile further would be instructive as regards finding out how much stamina he has. He is one of the twelve Welsh entries, which include previous winners Potters Corner and Secret Reprieve.
The northernmost entry comes from Lucinda Russell’s Perth & Kinross yard. Mighty Thunder has guaranteed stamina, having won twice over four miles plus, including this year’s Scottish National. One of the other two Scottish-trained entries is Lake View Lad, the winner of last season’s Many Clouds Chase at Aintree when owned by the late Trevor Hemmings.
Irish challengers always have to be feared and among the four entries is Jessica Harrington’s Discordantly, not beaten too far in the Ultima at the Cheltenham Festival, and Peter Fahey’s The Big Dog, the gallant winner of the Punchestown Grand National Trial.