The festive season is a great time for horse racing fans, with the iconic Kempton Christmas Festival taking place, as well as the Welsh Grand National at Chepstow on December 27th.
This year’s race will be slightly different, in that it will take place behind closed doors. Despite crowds returning to four of England’s racecourses earlier this month, for the first time since March, it has been announced that Wales will not be following suit. A statement on the Chepstow racecourse website read: “The Welsh Government has announced that spectators will not be allowed to attend race meetings in Wales until early 2021 due to the Covid19 pandemic.
“It had been hoped we could welcome spectators at Chepstow and Ffos Las following Boris Johnson’s decision to allow customers to attend elite sport in Tier 1 and 2 regions in England from December 2nd.”
An open letter to the Welsh government has since been penned, and further updates are to be expected. The lack of fans at racecourses and stadiums has of course, affected sports massively since their resumption. But with the Grand National being the biggest date in the Welsh calendar, fans and connections alike, will be hoping for a resolution. As we have already seen, without spectators, the atmosphere is very different, almost eerie – and it could well have a bearing on how the horse racing betting markets pan out.
As well as the lack of fans, there are several notable absentees, when it comes to the field list. Last year’s winner Potters Corner is out, with part-owner Wales rugby player Jonathan Davies, setting his sights on the Aintree centrepiece of the same name, next April. After the coronavirus pandemic put paid to the race going ahead, as usual, earlier this year, a virtual race was staged in its place, which Potters Corner won at odds of 18/1.
Williams announced his plans: “To hopefully give him some longevity we’ve decided to go down the cross-country route so successfully navigated by Tiger Roll [2018 and 2019 Grand National] in previous years.”
And 2016 winner, Native River, looks to bypass Chepstow as his campaign takes him in search for Cheltenham Gold Cup glory once more, next March. The 10-year-old, trained by Colin Tizzard, was beaten in the Many Clouds Chase at Aintree earlier in the month but will look to return to Prestbury Park in the New Year to contest the Cotswold Chase on Trials Day. In his last 20 outings, Native River has placed 19 times, winning 10 races – including that epic battle with Might Bite in the 2018 Gold Cup.
Instead, the current favorite is Secret Reprieve. The improving six-year-old will look to emulate the record-breaking feat of last year’s victor, in becoming another Welsh-trained winner. The gelding from Evan Williams’ yard won the Grand National trial, 12 lengths ahead of The Two Amigos, and looks good value for the Chepstow title. Also leading the charge in the ante-post betting odds are Springfield Fox, Sam Brown, and Truckers Lodge.
The 2020 Welsh Grand National will take place on Sunday 27th December at 14:50 (GMT).