Who is your favourite ahead of Saturday’s big race?
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 on Saturday. The Grade 3 race is run over three miles, five and a half furlongs with 22 obstacles to overcome and it’s a stern test over conditions that are generally run on soft going – and sometimes on much more testing ground.
Past winners include Bindaree (2003) and Silver Birch (2004) who both claimed the Aintree version throughout their careers. Synchronised (2010) took the Chepstow marathon before success at Cheltenham in the blue riband Gold Cup event. The Emma Lavelle trained, Shotgun Paddy is the marginal favourite with 888sport, and has already won over hurdles and a chase at the Welsh track, but will the seven-year old win again? Here we will run over some of the most important trends of the race in its recent history to try and help pinpoint the winner of this years’ event.
Curse of the jolly
It must be said that favourites have a poor recent record in the race with just one winning jolly – Silver Birch (2004) - claiming the race in the last 11 runnings. Five of the last six winners have been priced up by the bookmakers at odds of between 10/1 and 20/1, so it could pay to look further down the betting order for some real value.
Faith in youth
The winning age category provides some interesting information in that no horse aged nine or over has won the race in the last ten years. If that statistic was to hold up again this year, it would immediately rule out 15 intended runners of the current total of 26 at the five-day declaration stage. All ten previous winners were aged between 6 and 8, with five winners aged seven, being the most successful group.
Handlers to watch
Paul Nicholls and Richard Lee have fine records in the race with both handlers saddling two winners in the last ten renewals. Lee has sent out Le Beau Bai (2011) and last years’ winner Mountainous - and the latter must be treated with respect when returning for a repeat bid. Only Bonanza Boy has claimed a double haul of the race back in 1988-89 in the races’ modern history however. Nicholls is currently double-handed with Hawkes Point and Benvolio remaining in the declarations. This will be a targeted race for the trainer who will be looking to maintain a strong position in the Trainers’ Championship money-list standings.
Low weight helps?
Seven of the last ten winners have carried no more than 10-9, with three winners being successful at over that weight. With such testing conditions expected at the Welsh venue, a low-weighted horse could well be a sensible choice when selecting your winner. It is interesting to note that the last three winners have crossed the line with no more weight than 10-1.
Ooh la la
The breeding of a horse may not be the first port of call when selecting a winner for the Welsh National, but French bred horses have an excellent recent record in the race with five winners and a further ten placed efforts in the last decade of the event. That statistic is enhanced when you consider that all fifteen placed horses in that period have come from just 46 runners, which is just a quarter of the total amount of horses to take their chance in the race during that period.
This is in no way of a definitive guide to picking the race winner, but these trends do help towards making a sensible decision on which horse or even horses to back. From a current betting perspective, the race is totally wide open, which means that there is value to be had – especially from an each-way point of view and in an open event, 888Sport’s Half Length Refunds offer could provide a valuable cushion. Good luck!