The £150,000 Coral Welsh Grand National was won for the third year in a row by a Welsh-trained horse. Iwilldoit was well backed on the day of the race and ran out a convincing winner at odds of 13/2.
His trainer Sam Thomas has a yard at Lisvane, near Cardiff, mainly but not exclusively populated with Dai Walters’ horses. Thomas has had a terrific run lately, which was capped by this, the biggest triumph of his training career. Iwilldoit’s owners are Diamond Racing, a Caerphilly-based syndicate.
Three false starts held up proceedings as the 20 runners jostled for position, and when they did get away Iwilldoit didn’t get a clean break. He clearly wasn’t affected by that or the exertion of winning the trial race here three weeks earlier. He took the lead at the end of the back straight and galloped on remorselessly to victory.
Later his jockey Stan Sheppard, also relishing the biggest winner of his career, revealed that he hadn’t got down to as low as ten stone to ride for five years.
The Paul Nicholls pair Highland Hunter and Truckers Lodge finished second and third. Secret Reprieve, last season’s winner and the ante-post favourite, may have been undone by lack of a prep race. He faded out of contention in the last half-mile to come in last of the five finishers. However, connections had a good start to the day when Golden Whisky won the 2m4f chase, with Adam Wedge sporting the Rucker colours. Even though he is almost nine, the horse is still a baby according to Evan Williams and maybe better over further.
Elsewhere on the card, Tim Vaughan enjoyed a welcome change of luck when Bells Of Peterboro bolted up in the 3m hurdle under Alan Johns. Conditions were right for him and “today was the plan,” according to his trainer. The horse will find it hard to follow up, as the handicapper will take a dim view of his 22 length success.
Wales’s fourth winner of the day was Pats Fancy in the 3m novice chase, for Rebecca Curtis and Ben Jones. Running off a ten pound higher mark than his course and distance win earlier in the month, he outstayed his opponents to win by eleven lengths. It was only his third steeplechase and he looks capable of further improvement.
The £70,000 Grade One Coral Finale Juvenile Hurdle went to a very smart horse, Porticello, trained by Gary Moore and ridden by Jamie Moore. He won easily by eight and a half lengths from Saint Segal. The favourite Forever Blessed was pulled up having almost lost his rider Sean Bowen when hampered early in the race.
Finally, best wishes to the legend Native River. The 2016 winner of the Coral Welsh Grand National was pulled up in this year’s race and will now enjoy a happy retirement. He won a total of 14 races including the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2018. His prize money haul was more than £1.1m – some achievement for a jump horse.