A Brief History: The Welsh Grand National

Features | 21st December 2021

This prestigious Welsh Grand National demands stamina and fortitude from both horse and rider. Throw in 23 fences to be tackled and you’ve got all the ingredients for a Festive cracker.

Held in rural surroundings high above the Welsh borders town of Chepstow, The Welsh Grand National is run over a marathon three‐and‐three‐quarter miles, often in testing ground.

The long distance contest has seen top‐class talent like Burrough Hill Lad, Cool Ground, Master Oats, Synchronised and Native River all win it before going on to Cheltenham Gold Cup glory.

Legendary trainer Martin Pipe dominated the race in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He won the race five times in six years and saddled the first four to finish in 1992 when Run For Free led home stablemates Riverside Boy, Miinehoma and Bonanza Boy.

Dream Alliance’s success in 2009 prompted filmmakers to turn his story into a Hollywood movie, Dream Horse. 

The winner had been bred by pub barmaid Jane Vokes and raised on a South Wales allotment. She gathered together a group of pub regulars to form a syndicate and he went into training with Philip Hobbs. The film, Dream Horse, was released earlier this year.


The Welsh National was originally run at Ely Racecourse. It was held at the Cardiff track from its creation in 1895 until it switched to Caerleon Racecourse, across the River Usk from where the Celtic Manor championship golf course now stands, for one year in 1948.

When it transferred to its current home the following year it was run in its traditional slot on Easter Tuesday.

The race was moved to February in an effort to attract better horses in 1969 and then to its Christmas fixture ten years later. In recent years the resurgence of Welsh jumps racing has come to the fore.

James Bowen, son of Pembrokeshire trainer Peter, rode Irish raider Raz De Maree to victory in 2017 when only 16‐years‐old.

Two years later another Welsh conditional jockey, Jack Tudor, was successful on Potters Corner.

He was co‐owned by Welsh rugby star Jonathan Davies and was trained by Christian Williams, based on the South Wales coast near Porthcawl.

Last season, another Welsh trainer, Evan Williams, based at Llancarfan in the Vale of Glamorgan, landed the prize with Secret Reprieve. He is likely to return to defend his crown this Christmas.

Secret Reprieve will attempt to become the first back‐to‐back winner of the Welsh National since Bonanza Boy more than 32 years ago.

He hasn’t run since landing last year’s Welsh National and he would certainly appreciate a wet Christmas as he loves soft ground.

His trainer Evan Williams has also entered lightly‐raced Fado Des Brosses, while Christian Williams could run 2019 winner Potters Corner and Irish import Mr Hendricks.

Ex‐jockey Sam Thomas, based at Lisvane near Cardiff, looks to have the best chance of keeping the prize in Wales for a third successive year. His Iwilldoit bolted up in the Welsh Grand National Trial recently and is on course for the main event with his tail