The Welsh Grand National is a prestigious handicap steeplechase that has been run, over 3 miles 5½ furlongs, at Chepstow Racecourse in the Welsh border region, historically known as the Marches, since 1949. However, Wales’ most prestigious horse race was first run at Ely Racecourse in 1895 and, following the closure of that venue in 1939, run once at Caerleon Racecourse, in 1948, on its resumption following World War II, before being transferred permanently to Chepstow.
The Welsh Grand National has been sponsored by Coral since 1973 and in 2016, when Hennessy withdrew its sponsorship of the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury, became the longest-running commercially sponsored steeplechase in National Hunt racing. The race is familiarly known as the “Coral Welsh Grand National.” The Welsh Grand National was awarded Grade 3 status when the National Hunt Pattern was overhauled by the Jockey Club in 1989.
Originally the highlight of a two-day fixture staged on Easter Monday and Tuesday, the Welsh Grand National was moved, notwithstanding the vagaries of the British winter, to February in 1969 and to late December a decade later. Nowadays, with total prize money of £150,000 the Welsh Grand National is the feature race of a single-day fixture scheduled annually for December 27. That said, in 2010, 2012, 2015 and 2017 the original fixture was postponed because of snow and frost, or waterlogging, and the race was run in January of the following year.
The scheduling of the Welsh Grand National means that, almost invariably, the race is run under testing conditions but, rather than being just another slog in the mud, it is often an illuminative guide to major steeplechases later in the season, notably the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Grand National proper. Future Cheltenham Gold Cup winners to have won the Welsh Grand National include Burrough Hill Lad, Synchronised and Native River, while Corbiere, Bindaree and Silver Birch tasted victory at Chepstow and at Aintree.