With five fences remaining in the 2020 Welsh Grand National, Secret Reprieve began to make headway as the leading group of runners entered the home straight at Chepstow.
The seven-year-old started to pick the field off one-by-one and by three out, he found himself in front and was travelling the strongest coming into the final stages.
Disaster attempted to intervene late on when the gelding’s girth broke with two fences remaining.
However, jockey Adam Wedge kept his cool and his balance to guide the 5-2 favourite home for a famous home victory for Evan Williams.
Secret Reprieve’s success at Chepstow saw pundits push the idea of the seven-year-old making the trip to Liverpool in April to tackle the famous Aintree fences in the Grand National.
At first, Williams suggested his gelding had a different target for the season, believing the National Hunt Chase was the better option due to him being a novice.
Nevertheless, the Llancarfan trainer stated after the Welsh National success that ‘the Grand National is higher on my list, but I’ll have to talk to the owners and see which way they want to go.’
It became clear which race Secret Reprieve would be aimed at, when Williams announced that the seven-year-old would miss the Cheltenham Festival completely, with the temptation of Aintree too great to ignore.
The Welsh trainer achieved a lifelong ambition in landing his native Grand National, and his season could finish even sweeter if his runner was to land the pinnacle event of National Hunt racing.
Adam Wedge is likely to retain the ride on the seven-year-old and he expressed his opinion if he was to land success in the biggest race in the world when speaking to our sister site cheltenham.co.uk:
“To win the Grand National would be absolutely fantastic. Having won the Scottish and Welsh is brilliant, but the pinnacle is the Grand National. It’s the race everyone wants to win.”
Secret Reprieve is looking more likely to make the cut by the week with several contenders higher up in the weights being scratched, and he will carry the exact same weight of 10st 1lbs that he won the Welsh National with.
The seven-year-old would also have the chance to create history with success at Aintree.
Only two horses in history have won the Grand National and the Welsh edition in the same season since the latter was switched to Chepstow in 1949. Jenny Pitman’s Corbiere landed both contests in the 1982/83 season, while Earth Summit completed the feat for Nigel Twiston-Davies in the 1997/98 season.
Could Secret Reprieve write himself into history? He will have to go against several trends to claim success here.
There has not been a seven-year-old winner in the Grand National in 71 years, when Lord Stalbridge’s Bogskar, ridden by Royal Air Force sergeant Mervyn Jones, won by four lengths in the 1940 edition.
In fact, a seven-year-old has not placed in this race since 1971, when Black Secret finished second behind Specify.
It would also be a significant milestone for Wales if Evan Williams’ gelding was to win, as it would end a 116-year wait for a Welsh-trained runner to land the Grand National.
Kirkland is the only winner of the National Hunt showpiece to be trained in Wales, claiming success back in 1905 for Edward Thomas.
The seven-year-old may be trained in Wales, but he originates from the other side of the Irish sea. Irish-bred runners have won 16 of the last 21 renewals of this contest.
Secret Reprieve has a lot to defy in the trends, but he will have the support of the Welsh when he makes his descent upon Aintree in just over a fortnight’s time.