Chepstow Racecourse is located north of the town in Monmouthshire, Wales and is home to the Coral Welsh Grand National. The course is situated close to the Severn Bridge on the A466. Take the exit at Junction 2 on the M48 and follow the signs. Chepstow Station is only ten minutes’ walk from the town centre with regular trains from Birmingham, Cardiff, Newport and Gloucester. There are connections at Newport for trains from London Paddington, Manchester and Bristol.
Chepstow is a left handed oval track of almost two miles in circumference and is regarded as one of the most testing in the country. The course stages both Flat and National Hunt racing. The ground can get extremely heavy and the long home straight also puts the emphasis on stamina. The tricky undulations do not suit every animal and front runners do quite well here.
All races on the flat up to a mile are run on the straight course. On faster ground there is a distinct advantage for horses drawn high, particularly in large fields over seven furlongs.
Chepstow Horse Racing History
Chepstow Racecourse was officially opened as a flat racing venue on 6th August 1926. The meeting attracted an impressive 20,000 spectators and the opening race was won by 7-4 favourite Conca D’Oro.
The course was the venue for the Welsh Derby, Oaks and St Leger but these races have not stood the test of time. Sir Gordon Richards rode eleven consecutive winners over the course of a two-day meeting at Chepstow in 1933. He was denied a clean sweep of all twelve races when narrowly beaten into second place in the final event.
Jump racing was introduced the following March and has gradually replaced flat racing as the dominant sport. Chepstow is now owned by the Arena Racing Company who now operate 16 racecourses in the UK.
Welsh Grand National
There are over thirty meetings held annually at Chepstow. The £150,000 Coral Welsh National meeting takes place on 27th December and is one of the big betting races over the Christmas period. The meeting also stages the Grade 1 Coral Future Champions Finale Juvenile Hurdle, a significant trial for the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham.
The Jumps season gets under way in October with a two-day meeting offering over £300,000 in prize money. The £50,000 Grade 3 Silver Trophy and the Grade 2 £35,000 Persian War Novices’ Hurdle are the feature races.
The Grade 3 Welsh Grand National is the richest race run in Wales and one of the most prestigious staying races in the National Hunt calendar. It is run over three miles and five and half furlongs, making it a target for possible Grand National runners.
The race first took place at Ely in Cardiff in 1895 before being transferred to Caerleon in 1948. The Welsh National was first run at its present location in 1949 with Dick Francis winning aboard Fighting Line. The race was originally staged on Easter Tuesday, moving to February in 1969 and to December ten years’ later. Coral have sponsored the race since 1973, one of the longest surviving sponsorships in National Hunt racing.
The two-mile Finale Junior Hurdle was introduced in 1971. The Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham and the Anniversary four-year-old Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree are the only other Grade 1 races for the age group.
The Silver Trophy Handicap Hurdle is over two miles and three and a half furlongs. It was introduced in 1988 and acquired Grade 3 status in 2011. The Persian War Novices’ Hurdle over the same distance is named after the three-time Champion Hurdle winner who was trained near Chepstow.
Famous Races and Racehorses at Chepstow
The Welsh Grand National has been won by many top steeplechasers over the years. Burrough Hill Lad won the race in 1983 for Jenny Pitman before going on to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup the following year. Cool Ground (1990), Master Oats (1994), Synchronized (2010) and Native River (2016) also went on to win the Gold Cup later in their careers.
2018 Gold Cup winner Native River carried 11st 12lbs to victory, matching the weight carrying performance of Carvill’s Hill (1991). Many pundits regarded Carvill’s Hill as a certainty for the Gold Cup after his dominant 20 lengths victory but he did not produce his best at Cheltenham. The race has also produced several future winners of the Aintree Grand National. Corbiere (1982), Earth Summit (1997), Bindaree (2003) and Silver Birch (2004) all went on to win at Liverpool. Rhyme ‘n’ Reason was beaten by Playschool in the 1987 Welsh National and won at Aintree on his final appearance in 1988.
The diminutive Bonanza Boy (1988 and 1989) won the race twice, triggering a run of five wins in six years for Trainer Martin Pipe. Mountainous (2013 and 2015) claimed two victories, the first when trained by Richard Lee and the second for his daughter, Kerry. Jockey David Nicholson rode three consecutive Welsh National winners for three different trainers between 1959 and 1961. Two of those victories were aboard Limonali.
The Finale Juvenile Hurdle always has an impact on the betting for the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham. Mysliv (1993) and Defi Du Seuil (2016) both went on to win at the Festival. Other notable winners include Decent Fellow (1976), Broadsword (1980), Out of The Gloom (1984), High Knowl (1986), Walkon (2008) and Bristol De Mai (2014).
Silviniaco Conti won the Persian War Novices’ Hurdle in 2010 and would go on to win the King George VI Chase in 2013 and 2014. Another leading chaser to win over hurdles here was 2010 Aintree Grand National winner Don’t Push It, the winner of the Silver Trophy in 2007. Court Minstrel won the race under a record weight of 11st 12lbs in 2015. He won again in 2017 to become the oldest winner of the Silver Trophy at ten years of age.
Chepstow Top Jockeys and Trainers
Venetia Williams does extremely well with her chasers at Chepstow with a strike rate of 25% over the past three seasons. Evan Williams is the man to follow over hurdles with a similar record and a healthy level stakes profit. Philip Hobbs has a good record with his runners at Chepstow and often runs a useful novice here. Make a note of anything that Tom George saddles in National Hunt Flat races.
Richard Johnson and Tom Scudamore both show a strike rate of around 25% while Stan Sheppard is another jockey worth following. He had six winners and five places from just nineteen rides over the same three-year period.
Richard Hannon is the leading trainer numerically on the flat at Chepstow but there may be better value in following Eve Johnson Houghton and John O’Shea. Tom Marquand leads the jockeys in terms of winners while Callum Shepherd has shown a useful level stakes profit.