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Track Talk With Phil Bell - Welsh Grand National Review


15 January 2021

To use a cliché – it’s like buses. 

I am, of course, referring to Coral Welsh Grand National winners trained in Wales. You wait for ages and then two arrive in close succession.

Potters Corner, trained at Ogmore-by-Sea by Christian Williams, won the race in 2019 and last Saturday, the gelding Secret Reprieve came to Chepstow from his Vale of Glamorgan base and made it back to back victories for Wales.

Before Potters Corner you had to go back to 1965 for a Welsh trained winner.

The seven-year-old Secret Reprieve arrived at the track as the red hot favourite for the biggest race of the year in Wales. He won comfortably by three lengths under his excellent jockey Adam Wedge who had dusted himself down after two falls in earlier races. The front running The Two Amigos was second and Yala Enki third. 

The relatively short odds of 5-2 indicated how much money had been invested in the horse by the nation’s punters. He’d been as big as 10-1 after winning the trial for the race in early December.

For trainer Evan Williams, it was an emotional victory and he was understandably close to tears in the Winners’ Enclosure in front of audience of 750,000 on ITV Racing. Fair play to him, he’s a man with a tough exterior but this showed, as a proud Welshman, it was a really big deal. He’s wanted to win this prestigious prize ever since he started training and has had numerous horses placed in recent years.

The meeting went ahead after several days of worry and anxiety for my team at the racecourse. 

The original date for the race on December 27th had been lost due to waterlogging and we were obviously hoping the re-scheduled fixture wouldn’t fall to the elements.

The chilly weather forecast a week out did cause concern so our Clerk of the Course Libby O’Flaherty (effectively the Stage Manager for the event) arranged for 5000 metres of frost covers to be laid over the course. We hired a mini army of staff to complete the work inside two days.

The covers did their job and the meeting got the go-ahead after a course inspection at 8am on race day. It was great to have some positive news after the challenges of recent months.

The Coral Welsh Grand National has been abandoned five times in the last ten years but on every occasion the re-scheduled race has gone ahead just two weeks later. A positive twist of fate.

As the meeting took place without spectators and owners, it was brilliant to see such a strong ITV audience of three quarters of a million people in addition to tens of thousands watching on Sky Sports Racing. Both broadcasters did a superb job on Chepstow’s biggest day of the year.

Finally, a mention for one of our biggest supporters, trainer Paul Nicholls who on Saturday sent out seven winners across the UK including two at Chepstow ridden by Bryony Frost - Pozo Emery and Storm Arising. He’s won the trainers’ championship eleven times and he’s well on the way to making it number twelve this season. He started with just eight horses in training in October 1991.

Chepstow’s next meeting is on Wednesday 20th January. All live on Sky Sports Racing. 

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