'It's a massive day' - return of crowds for Welsh National day thrills officials

Runners in the 3m handicap hurdle race past the stands, the race was won by Evaâs OskarChepstow 27.12.19 Pic: Edward Whitaker
How Chepstow usually looks on Welsh National dayCredit: Edward Whitaker

Officials at Chepstow are braced for an all-singing, all-dancing Coral Welsh Grand National fixture on Tuesday, the first with spectators since 2019 following the pandemic.

Executive director Phil Bell and his team were this time last year gearing up for a return to normal, but last-minute Covid-19 restrictions imposed by local authorities meant the meeting took place behind closed doors.

There are no such worries this time round and, crucially, the weather is also set to play ball.

"I'm hoping for a crowd of around 10,000, which would be par," said Bell.

A deserted Chepstow when the 2020 Welsh National was run
A deserted Chepstow when the 2020 Welsh National was runCredit: David Davies (Getty Images)

"The bookings come quite late, which I think is due to the weather. In 2019, when we last raced on this day with a crowd, we did 2,000 tickets in the last 48 hours, which includes walk-up purchases.

"The advance bookings are strong and hospitality is sold out – we could have done a few more if we had the capacity. The weather doesn't look like it's going to be an issue for the race and it looks relatively dry on Sunday and Monday, which could encourage people to come.

"I suspect the walk-up and last-minute take-up of tickets will be strong, looking at historical trends, while Tuesday is a bank holiday as well, which isn't always the case on December 27."

Bell, who has booked a Welsh male voice choir, two opera singers and a Tom Jones tribute act, added: "It should be a great occasion and the Welsh National produces good stories; think of the Dream Alliance film or Synchronised and Native River going on to win Gold Cups."

He encourages racegoers to allow plenty of time for their journeys and added: "We have an improved traffic management system, but we effectively have only one main route in, so we would appreciate people arriving early."

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James BurnLambourn correspondent
Published on 22 December 2022Last updated 21:44, 21 December 2022