Confidence for Reprieve repeat bid in Welsh National despite lack of prep run
Evan Williams says his confidence in last season’s Coral Welsh Grand National winner Secret Reprieve repeating the trick has not been dented despite his plans for a prep run having been scuppered by the lack of rain.
The seven-year-old was a commanding winner of the race in January and he featured among 54 horses still in contention for Welsh racing’s showpiece event following Tuesday’s scratching stage, which saw the Paul Nicholls-trained duo of Yala Enki and Next Destination among nine taken out.
Secret Reprieve has not been seen on the track since that victory and Williams had been desperate to get a run under his belt before his defence, but was not prepared to risk him on ground that was too quick.
A best-priced 7-1 ante-post favourite to become the first back-to-back winner of the Welsh National since Bonanza Boy in 1989, Secret Reprieve is now set to head straight to Chepstow for what would be his first start in 352 days.
“If we go to the Welsh National now it will be without a run," Williams said. "I wouldn’t be worried about it, not at all. Those are the cards we’ve been dealt and it makes no sense running in a trial now because if he was lucky enough to win he’d get a penalty, and if he were to get beat he wouldn’t get a drop in the weights.
"There is no point running him on ground that doesn’t suit because that would be the wrong thing to do. Unfortunately the weather hasn't been what we would have wanted so fingers crossed we’ll go straight to Chepstow now."
Williams could be double-handed for the Welsh National with lightly raced six-year-old Fado Des Brosses, who may run in the Welsh Grand National Trial at Chepstow, Sandown’s London National or Kelso’s Scottish Borders National this weekend depending on ground conditions.
Williams added: "Fado Des Brosses needs to run in some form of trial for me to know if he’s a horse for the Welsh National this year, but he’ll be given every opportunity because I think he could slot into that type of race."
The Welsh trainer also has two in contention for the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at Cheltenham on December 11, for which weights were announced on Monday.
Grade 1 winner Dashel Drasher could carry top weight of 11st 12lb, with 8-1 ante-post favourite Lalor, who finished third in the Paddy Power Gold Cup, allocated 11st 4lb.
Cepage, for Ladbrokes Trophy-winning trainer Venetia Williams, and Rouge Vif are also towards the top of the handicap with the race to be whittled down to a maximum field of 17 by December 9.
Coconut Splash and last year's Paddy Power Gold Cup winner Coole Cody both have entries for Evan Williams, but a decision on their participation will not be made until next week.
Williams said: “Coconut Splash is declared for Haydock on Wednesday and I’d like to see him run well there before deciding about the week after. Coole Cody is in on Sunday for the Peterborough Chase, but I'd imagine we’d wait until this time next week before deciding where we go with him. He needs a good school and we’ll decide then once he’s gone over a few fences."
Also on Monday, last year’s King George VI Chase runner-up Waiting Patiently was among six removed from the field for this year's running of the Kempton Grade 1.
Monday's scratching stage left 25 in contention, including ante-post favourite Clan Des Obeaux – seeking a third triumph in the race – last year's winner Frodon and a strong Irish contingent including Minella Indo, Al Boum Photo, Allaho and Envoi Allen.
Caspian Caviar Gold Cup (December 11)
Bet365: 7 Lalor, Hitman, 8 Midnight Shadow, Coole Cody, 10 Dostal Phil, Noble Yeats, Simply The Betts, 12 Fusil Raffles, Zanza, 14 bar.
Ladbrokes King George VI Chase (December 26)
Ladbrokes: 3 Clan Des Obeaux, 9-2 Minella Indo, 5 Chantry House, 6 Envoi Allen, Frodon, 8 Allaho, 14 bar.
Coral Welsh Grand National (December 27)
Coral: 6 Secret Reprieve, 7 Ask Me Early, 10 Highland Hunter, Threeunderthrufive, Time To Get Up, 14 The Big Dog, 16 bar.
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