2018 Coral Welsh Grand National Handicap Chase Odds and Betting Preview
The countdown is on for one of the most eagerly anticipated staying chase races of the National Hunt calendar as the Welsh National takes place at Chepstow next Thursday afternoon, with the race start time due off at 14:50 GMT.
The Grade 3 classified handicap chase is run over three miles, five and a half furlongs with 22 stiff fences to overcome, which provides a stern test over conditions that is generally run on soft going – and sometimes on much more testing ground.
Past winners during this century include Bindaree (2003) and Silver Birch (2004) who both claimed the Aintree Grand National throughout their careers. Synchronised (2010) and Native River (2016) also took the Chepstow marathon before success at the Cheltenham Festival in the Blue Riband Gold Cup event.
This race was first run back in 1895, and it originally took place at Ely Racecourse in Cardiff. It remained at the South Wales venue until its closure in 1939. After the Second World War, the Welsh National was moved to Caerleon in 1948, and then transferred to its present venue of Chepstow in 1949.
Originally run on Easter Tuesday, it was moved to February in 1969 with the aim of attracting better horses, albeit with the increased risk of bad weather forcing its cancellation. It has been sponsored by bookmakers Coral from 1973 to the present day, and this is now the longest running sponsorship in jump racing.
The staying chase event was moved to late December in 1979, after that year’s original fixture was abandoned due to snow. The meeting is now held the day after Boxing Day and since then the class of runners has improved further, making it an informative guide to future races such as the Grand National and the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
A maximum field of 20 runners will take part in the race with last year’s winner, Raz Da Maree as an intended runner at the five-day declaration stage. Can he roll back the years as a 13-year-old veteran, or will there be a new name on the 2018 trophy? Please read on for our thoughts on some of the intended runners of this big race.
Elegant to Escape the Field?
A chasing career that has yet to see the impressive six-year-old out of the first three in six starts, the Colin Tizzard trained, Elegant Escape is the current ante-post market leader of the Welsh National at the best industry price of 7/1 with the likes of Betfred.
Elegant Escape has been campaigned at the highest level from his novice days, and he finished third behind ante-post Cheltenham Gold Cup favourite, Presenting Percy in the RSA Chase at the 2018 Festival. Tizzard knows exactly the traits required to win the Welsh National, following his Native River who powered home to victory two years ago. Elegant Escape has a similar profile, and is likely to be involved at the business end of the race.
Fellow second season chaser, Ramses De Teillee is narrowly behind Elegant Escape in the betting at 8/1 with the likes of 888Sport and Ladbrokes, as these promising staying stars are likely to renew rivalry next week.
David Pipe’s six-year old found Elegant Escape far too good when they faced off at Exeter back in February by slamming his rival by thirteen lengths on that day. However, Ramses De Teillee is in receipt of a seven-pound weight allowance over Tizzard’s charge this time around, and he proved his ability over the Chepstow fences earlier this month by winning the Welsh National trial race. Pipe has never been successful in this race as a trainer, but his father, Martin, trained five winners from 1988-93.
Vintage Performance Awaits?
After narrowly missing out on a place in last season’s Aintree Grand National, the Sue Smith-trained, Vintage Clouds showed his wellbeing in the Scottish version, with an admirable third-placed finish behind Joe Farrell, beaten by only four lengths. The eight-year old is guaranteed to make the cut for the Welsh National, and can be backed at the best industry odds of 12/1 with the likes of Ladbrokes, and the race sponsors, Coral.
On his reappearance this season, Vintage Clouds showed improved form in winning a Class 2 Handicap Chase at Haydock, under top weight. The eight-year old will have no stamina issues at Chepstow, and rates as a contender with a strong each-way chance, at least. My personal view is that we are yet to see the best of him.
Irish trainer, Gavin Cromwell saddled-up Raz Da Maree to be the first Irish raider to claim the Welsh National since Notre Pere won for trainer, Jim Dreaper and jockey Andrew Lynch back in 2008. As previously stated, Raz Da Maree is likely to take his chance again next week, but it is another Irish raider, Baie Des Iles, trained by Ross O’Sullivan, who could be the emerald isle’s best hope of success this time around.
Now a seven-year-old, Baie Des Iles lined up in the Welsh National two years ago, and finished in a credible fifth place, under Katie Walsh. Now racing off just a one-pound higher handicap mark, with two years more experience, Baie Des Iles could well improve on his previous efforts.
Others of Note
A couple to throw in at bigger odds are Looksnowtlikebrian, trained by local trainer, Tim Vaughan and Vieux Lion Rouge, who could offer David Pipe another hope of Chepstow glory.
Looksnowtlikebrian is a horse on the upgrade following two wins at Carlisle this season, both under champion jockey, Richard Johnson. At the current odds of 16/1 with the likes of William Hill, Looksnowtlikebrian needs a few horses to drop out to make the cut of twenty runners, but if Vaughan’s charge is to line-up, he should be taken seriously.
There is an element of thought to suggest that Vieux Lion Rouge’s best days are behind him, but following a recent second-placed effort behind Walk In The Mill over Aintree’s National fences, he could be worth a small interest at 25/1 with Betfred. I believe that Vieux Lion Rouge cannot last the extra distance for the Aintree National, but this trip could be much more suitable.
The two horses I would like to offer up as selections for this race are Elegant Escape and Vintage Clouds.
Firstly, Elegant Escape has proven to be a very consistent individual, who has excellent form at the top of the ratings for this race. He is yet to show his adeptness for the trip, but that should not be seen as a negative, rather as a potential indication of improvement, and could prove too good for the field.
Secondly, Vintage Clouds is another on the list of potential improvers. His breeding suggests that he will love to likely soft conditions underfoot and has no issues regarding stamina. I honestly expect both horses to run very well.
- Elegant Escape to Win the Welsh National at 7/1 with Betfred
- Vintage Clouds Each-Way at 12/1 with Ladbrokes.