Always a dour test of stamina given the way the ground usually comes up soft at this time of year in Wales, the three and three-quarter miles can seem like considerably further. The fences come up thick and fast down the two straights so a neat jumper is a must as well as endless reserves of grit and courage. Our antepost preview for the Welsh Grand National is live on the site, one of the most unique tests of the season on a quirky undulating track. What clues can previous years give us to help find the winner of the 2017 renewal?
At the five day declaration stage the lowest weight in the 2017 renewal of the Welsh Grand National is 10-12, even with a few withdrawals it seems that we are unlikely to get more than a couple who will fit into the general low weight category that does so well in this contest. Courtown Oscar needs five to come out to get a run but the eight-year-old mudlark is in off 10-5, a solid second over three and a half miles last time out thirty-two days ago, he ticks a lot of the boxes for the trends.
Rock The Kasbah has an excellent record over the fences at Chepstow, fitting the majority of the above trends except on weight and a run within seven weeks. It will be more than ten weeks since he saw action but with a strong record fresh as well as at the track, connections can’t be blamed for trying to have as much in his favour as possible and buck the trend. Ask The Weatherman and Eider winner Mysteree are others towards the head of the betting who are looking to put an end to the recent run trend.
Both Milansbar and Firebird Flyer come into this race on the back of a much improved effort from their general level of form in the last year. The latter especially has placed in this race before, but they like the course expert Bob Ford fall foul of the age trend which has only been broken in the last fifteen years when Mountainous claimed his second Welsh Grand National.
The market is headed by Beware The Bear and while the outright favourite may not be the place to be, he ticks enough of the trends to think that he has to be give plenty of each way consideration. His age and his win last time out less than four weeks ago mark him down as a player to take home the prize.
The biggest issue for most at the head of the market is the weight carried, Beware The Bear, Chase The Spud, Rock The Kasbah and Final Nudge are all tasked with 11-6 or above. There are just four horses in the last quarter of a century who have won with that much weight on their backs. They are Cheltenham Gold Cup winners Master Oats and Synchronised as well as Cheltenham Gold Cup third Native River and the horse sent off the 1/1 favourite in the 1992 Gold Cup, Carvill’s Hill. With the greatest respect to connections of the four named above, they aren’t Gold Cup contenders in waiting which suggests they have a tough task. It looks a wide open edition of this staying chase, good luck with whatever horse you back to come home in front.