Chepstow Welsh Grand National: Race List & Meeting Info

There are many things to look forward to during the festive period and from a racing perspective, Welsh Grand National Day is certainly one of them. Treating us to a feast of racing is Chepstow Racecourse with seven races lined up across a thoroughly entertaining afternoon. Undoubtedly the biggest race day held in Wales all year, there will be plenty of spectators, young and old, coming to enjoy the spectacle.

A meeting quite often blighted by the weather, it’s always important to keep your eye on the forecast in Monmouthshire in the days prior to the event. Chepstow is known for having gruelling conditions at times, turning National Hunt tests into a real battle of endurance. This is always the case, regardless of conditions, for the Welsh Grand National, not too far from four miles in distance and with 23 fences to tackle. For the horse that triumphs in this test of stamina, expect to see them at Aintree in April for the English equivalent of the race.

While the 1895-established contest rightly takes the spotlight every December 27th at Chepstow, you don’t want to overlook the Finale Juvenile Hurdle. The first of just three Grade 1 juvenile hurdle events on the British calendar, it’s hands budding three year olds a real chance to make a name for themselves before the turn of the new year.


Chepstow Grand National

RaceGradeLengthPrize MoneyAges
Maiden Hurdle Class 4 2m3½f £8,400 4 Years Old +
Handicap Chase Class 2 2m3½f £35,000 4 Years Old +
Finale Juvenile Hurdle Grade 1 2m £65,000 3 Years Old
Handicap Hurdle Class 2 2m7½f £30,000 4 Years Old +
Welsh Grand National Handicap Chase Grade 3 3m6½f £150,000 4 Years Old +
Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase Class 3 2m7½f £21,450 4 Years Old +
National Hunt Flat Race Class 4 2m £6,000 4-6 Years Old

Maiden Hurdle

Class 4, 2m3½f

Maiden hurdlers aged four and over get the Grand National Meeting underway at Chepstow, taking on this Class 4 race. It’s run over two miles, three furlongs and one hundred yards, with ten hurdles for the competitors to jump during that distance. Currently sponsored by the bookmaker Coral, the race has prize money of over £3,700 on offer. If the Going is Soft then you can expect to watch the race for around five minutes before the winner is decided.

Handicap Chase

Class 2, 2m3½f

Also sponsored by Coral at the time of writing is this handicap chase. It’s run over two miles, three furlongs and ninety-eight yards, with horses aged four and over able to enter it. They’ll be competing for prize money that stands in excess of £17,000, with the handicappers aiming to level the playing field by adding weight to horses depending on their ability. There are sixteen fences to jump during the race.

Finale Juvenile Hurdle

Grade 1, 2m

This Grade 1 National Hunt hurdle race is open to horses aged three-years-old only. It takes place over around two miles and features eight hurdles for the horses to jump. As the name suggests, this is for novice hurdlers and is one of three Grade 1 juvenile hurdles that take place during the jump racing season. It is hollowed by the Triumph Hurdle during the Cheltenham Festival and the Anniversary 4-Y-O Novices' Hurdle at Aintree.

Regardless of when they are born, horses born in the Northern hemisphere all have a date of birth of the first of January. As a result, the race is only open to four-year-olds when it is postponed until January of the following year because of weather and other reasons.

Because the race is only open to three-year-olds (or four-year-olds depending on when it takes place), it goes without staying that no horse has ever won it more than once. The same cannot be said of jockeys and trainers. Four different jockeys have won the race three times, namely Daryl Jacob, Mick Fitzgerald, Peter Scudamore and Richard Johnson. David Nicholson has won the race three times as a trainer, but it’s Martin Pipe and Nicky Henderson that pip him to the post with four wins apiece.

Handicap Hurdle

Class 2, 2m7½f

Coral have put their name to races run at Chepstow on Welsh Grand National Day, with this one being no exception. It’s run over two miles, seven furlongs and one hundred and thirty-one yards, whilst the competing horses will need to make it over eleven hurdles if they wish to win it. It’s open to horses aged four and over with a rating of between 0 and 145, with the handicappers adding weight to them depending on exactly what their rating is.

Welsh Grand National Handicap Chase

Grade 3, 3m6½f

Mirroring the English Grand National in being a Grade 3 race, the Welsh Grand National is for slightly younger horses that are aged four and over. It’s a popular race for eligible horses to enter and take on the handicappers as well as each other, probably thanks to its prize money of more than £85,000. Run over three miles, six furlongs and one hundred and thirty yards, the race has twenty-three fences for the horses to negotiate.

Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase

Class 3, 2m7½f

Following the main event of the day is this Class 3 Limited handicap steeplechase. It’s open to horses aged four and over and they’ll need to jump eighteen fences if they hope to be able to cross the finish line first. The fences are spaced out over the two miles, seven furlongs and one hundred and thirty-one yards of the event, which has prize money of around £7,000. When the Going is Soft the horses can be expected to take about six minutes and twenty seconds to complete it.

National Hunt Flat Race

Class 4, 2m

As with so many National Hunt race meetings, the day is drawn to a close with a flat race that is run under National Hunt rules. This Class 4 event is for horses aged four to six, giving them a chance to experience a jump racing day without having to actually take on any jumps. The bumper is run over two miles and eleven yards, with horses competing for prize money that stands at around the £3,500 mark.


About the Welsh Grand National Meeting

When horse racing fans see the words ‘Grand National’ there’s usually only one event that they think of. The Grand National at Aintree Racecourse is the biggest horse race on the jump racing calendar, taking place every April and watched by millions. There are a number of other races that have the same moniker, however, with the Welsh Grand National arguably the most recognizable of the rest.

The event has been taking place since 1895, though the first running was at Cardiff’s Ely Racecourse rather than Chepstow Racecourse where the modern one takes place. It is also usually run on the 27th of December rather than in the Spring months, meaning that racegoers can watch the King George VI Chase on at Kempton Park on Boxing Day and then high-tail it to Monmouthshire for the action at Chepstow the next day.

The Welsh Grand National takes place in the middle of a single day of racing, which is given the name of the Welsh Grand National Festival. Yet, whilst there is another race big in the form of the Finale Juvenile Hurdle that is very much worthy of discussion, there’s no question that the National is the feature race of the day.

As we mentioned above, the Grade 3 National Hunt steeplechase began life in 1895 at Ely Racecourse, staying there until the venue closed its doors for the final time in 1939. The race didn’t take place at all during the Second World War, but when racing in general resumed in 1948 it was moved to Caerleon, near the Welsh city of Newport. It was only raced there for one year, shifting to Chepstow in 1949, where it has remained ever since.

The Race’s Formative Years

The initial running of the race took place on Easter Tuesday, but in 1969 it was moved to February in the hope that better horses would be persuaded to take part in it. The organisers decided that the risk of bad weather interfering with the race’s running was a risk worth taking if the payoff was a better quality of participant.

The decision to move the race to December came about in 1979, with the race that should have taken place in February of that year abandoned because of snow. It was an inspired choice to move it to the end of the year, with the quality of entrants remaining high ever since. Indeed, the race is seen as something of an indicator for punters about the likely competitors in both the Grand National and the Cheltenham Gold Cup later in the season.

An Indicator of Future Winners

In 1982 Jenny Pitman became the first female trainer to be responsible for the winner of the Grand National when Corbière won it under her care. It came just a few months after she’s also seen the horse win the Welsh Grand National. The following year Burrough Hill Lad won the Welsh National three months before winning the Gold Cup at Cheltenham.

Others have done similar, with Silver Birch winning the Welsh race in 2004 and then the Grand National at Aintree three years later. Synchronised and Native River won at Chepstow in 2010 and 2016 respectively before going on to win the Gold Cup at Cheltenham in 2016 and 2018. Interestingly, Bindaree actually did it the ‘wrong way round’, if you like, being victorious in the Grand National in 2002 and then the Welsh version of the race the following year.

Race Details & Records

The Welsh Grand National takes place left-handed over around three miles and five and a half furlongs. As with the Grand National at Aintree, it is a handicap race. It features twenty-two fences that the horses and their riders need to negotiate before reaching the final furlong.

Despite the fact that the Welsh Grand National is open to horses aged four-years-old and up, it has only been won more than once on three occasions since it started taking place at Chepstow in 1948. Limonali was the first horse to achieve the feat, doing so in 1959 and 1961, whilst Bonanza Boy became the first to win back-to-back races in 1988 and 1989. Mountainous won the race in 2013 and then again in 2015, doing so with an entirely different jockey and trainer the second time around.

The most common age of winner for the Welsh Grand National is eight-years-old, though horses as young as six have also crossed the line first over the years. The oldest horse to win the race to date was Raz De Maree, who was thirteen when James Bowen took it across the finish in first place in 2017.

Weather Interruptions

As you can imagine for a race that has regularly taken place when the weather is less than friendly, the Welsh Grand National has found itself interrupted or cancelled altogether because of the weather over the years. The first time it happened was in 1969 when it had to be abandoned on account of heavy snowfall. Six years later and it was rain that caused issues, with the course becoming so waterlogged that it had to be abandoned.

The race was then interrupted for two years running in 1977 and 1978, with a waterlogged course again causing problems the first time before frost was an issue the year after. That was when the decision was taken to move the event to December and it was smooth running for nearly twenty years after that. It was back-to-back problems with frost that caused the race’s cancellation in both 1995 and 1996, which came on the back of the 1994 race having to take place at Newbury.

The weather has also caused the race to be moved to the following year. Frost caused the 2010 Welsh Grand National to be moved to January of 2011, with water logging actually a far more consistent issue. The races of 2012, 2015 and 2017 were moved to the January of 2013, 2016 and 2018 respectively because the course was waterlogged. If you’re planning to go to watch the event at any point then it might be worth checking the weather forecast first.

National Hunt

In terms of being the sorts of races that the biggest horses tend to get entered into, only the Grade 1 Finale Juvenile Hurdle and the Grade 3 Welsh National tick the box. Yet all of the others have something to offer. As is traditional for a lot of National Hunt race meetings, the day comes to a close with a National Hunt Flat Race, meaning that those of you that are looking for future jumpers something to enjoy.

It’s unquestionably the feature race that make this a meeting worth attending, however, with many people swapping Kempton Park in Surrey for the Welsh course in order to attend the day after watching the King George VI Chase.