Early start for Coral Welsh Grand National

Officials at Chepstow are optimistic Saturday’s Coral Welsh Grand National will go ahead after being given the green light to move the feature event to a slot earlier in the afternoon.

The prestigious fixture had to be abandoned due to waterlogging when originally planned to take place on December 27, but was swiftly rescheduled.

While conditions at the Monmouthshire circuit remain extremely testing, clerk of the course Keith Ottesen is hopeful the meeting will take place after assessing the weather forecast and getting the go-ahead to move the main event to 1.45pm from its original start time of 3.25pm, helping to ensure the best possible ground is on offer.

Ottesen said: “Saturday’s meeting at Wincanton being off has given us the chance to change the running order and ensure the Welsh Grand National is run on the best ground on the day.

“The Welsh National will now be the first chase on the card and the third race overall. It will also be the first televised race on Channel 4.

“We had 16 millimetres of rain overnight and the ground is heavy, but the track is raceable.

“We’re forecast a dry day for the rest of today and there might be a shower or two around tomorrow, but nothing too serious.

“There are then a few showers around on Friday night into Saturday morning before a more organised band of rain comes on Saturday afternoon, but it’s difficult to be too precise about when that will arrive.

“At the moment things are looking very positive, but we obviously need to keep an eye on things and we’ll keep everyone updated as best we can.”

Racing at Chepstow is now due to commence at 12.35pm, five minutes later than originally scheduled. Four races from the track, including the Grade One coral.co.uk Future Champions Finale Juvenile Hurdle (2.20pm), will be shown live on Channel 4.

Provided the fixture beats the weather, Upswing will take his chance in the showpiece contest.

His trainer Jonjo O’Neill has expressed doubts about the ante-post favourite’s ability to handle the taxing conditions but his participation is not in doubt.

The race has already lost one of its main protagonists as Alan King was forced to rule out Cheltenham Festival winner Midnight Prayer.

Upswing is owned by JP McManus, who won the race with Synchronised the last time the meeting was moved for its usual date. McManus’ racing manager Frank Berry confirmed: “If the race is on he’ll be there.

“I’m not sure any horse will particularly like it but he’ll run and we’ll see how he gets on.”

Another certain to line up is the Paul Nicholls-trained Black Thunder. Owner Barry Fulton has no concerns about his stamina but fears top weight may prove too much.

“I’ve no doubt he wants this sort of a trip and he ploughs through the mud,” said Fulton.

“However, the ground is going to be so testing that with that weight he faces an almost impossible task. We’ll claim off him, which might make it a bit easier.”


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