In our new long-range Punting Pointers column, Rory Delargy targets the Coral Welsh Grand National and has a 14/1 bet to consider.
The Coral Welsh Grand National was last year run in memory of Kim Gingell, Joe Tizzard’s sister, and Joe came close to landing an emotional victory with THE BIG BREAKAWAY; the spur may not be the same a year on, but Tizzard would dearly love to win a race his father took with Native River and Elegant Escape, and the same horse has got every chance of going one better this time around.
Finishing second to the well-ridden Two Amigos was a tremendous effort from The Big Breakaway under a mammoth weight of 11st 11lb, and after looking like third place was the best he was going to achieve for much of the latter stages, his bottomless stamina kicked in after the last, taking second place off The Big Dog and closing on winner with every stride as the winning line approached.
His jumping can be a little patchy, but he barely put a foot wrong that day, and clearly enjoyed Chepstow’s undulations and soft ground (replay below).
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The keys to him appear to be ground with plenty of cut and being allowed space to get into a rhythm early. That didn’t happen in the Ultima on his next start, where he was lined up towards the outside to get clear sailing into the first but a pincer movement meant he had little room at the fence, and he seemed to resent that, downing tools almost immediately.
An early fall in the Grand National was hardly his fault, being badly hampered, but it did mean the second half of the season was something of a write-off, with the silver lining that a handicap mark which had been minded after Chepstow fell a little further.
The Big Breakaway put in an encouraging effort in the Badger Beer at Wincanton on his reappearance, where he was allowed to bowl along in front until he found himself outpaced with five to jump. He plugged on willingly enough, but all that showed was that three miles is nowhere near enough of a stamina test for him these days.
That run resulted in a further 2lb drop in the weights from the handicapper, which means he’ll race from a pound lower than last year in the Welsh National, and the outing should have sharpened him up with this in mind. Horses frequently come back to run well in Chepstow marathon year after year – you only need look at last year’s winner for evidence – and The Big Breakaway should run his race granted soft/heavy ground at Chepstow (and when is it not?).
Others to consider for Chepstow are 2021 hero Iwilldoit and Iron Bridge, and both have positive profiles with this race in mind.
Iwilldoit needs the mud and stays all day, so it was encouraging to see him run so well over hurdles in a Pertemps Qualifier at Aintree earlier in the month. He was controversially ruled out of the Grand National last year but in winning this race and the Classic Chase at Warwick, he has proven himself to be a genuine marathon chaser with a touch of class. He will have a big weight to carry, but that is the only sticking point with Sam Thomas’s gelding.
Iron Bridge has yet to reach the same heights, but he impressed when winning on chase debut at Carlisle in a race which threw up plenty of winners. His one disappointment came on faster ground at Chepstow on his next start, and he progressed again in the spring despite not winning and was unlucky not to get his head in front at Uttoxeter in March, when just failing in a televised novices’ handicap with a record of throwing up good stayers.
He should have won that day with his rider looking a little overconfident and just denied, but he was looked after and can do better still in 2023/24. The Welsh National was specifically mentioned as a target by Jonjo O’Neill Jr, and the son of Milan can be a major force in similar contests for the next couple of seasons.
I was intrigued to see that Jonjo O’Neill deliberately swerved Cheltenham last spring with Iron Bridge despite the horse attracting support for the Ultima and the Kim Muir, and he seemed particularly keen to mind this good prospect for his second season. He’s fairly treated on what he’s done, and will get an attractive racing weight at Chepstow, so was high on our shortlist when looking at the contest.
Published at 1712 GMT on 20/11/23
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