Welsh Grand National 2020: Secret Reprieve gives Evan Williams first win in Chepstow race

By Rhianydd Lee-JonesBBC Sport Wales at Chepstow
Secret Reprieve's win gave trainer Evan Williams (R) an elusive first Welsh Grand National title
Secret Reprieve's win gave trainer Evan Williams (R) an elusive first Welsh Grand National title

Favourite Secret Reprieve won Saturday's rearranged 2020 Welsh Grand National at Chepstow.

The 5-2 shot, ridden by Adam Wedge, gave Welsh trainer Evan Williams his first win in the race after being a runner-up, third and twice fourth.

It also claimed a second successive victory for Wales, after Christian Williams' Potters Corner ended a 54-year wait for a home winner in 2019.

The Two Amigos was runner-up, with Yala Enki third and Captain Drake in fourth.

"It's a relief more than anything. I'm very proud of the horse and Adam," Evan Williams told BBC Sport Wales.

"It means the world. I've always said I've wanted to win the Welsh Grand National."

Williams said the next target for Secret Reprieve could well be the Grand National at Aintree, where Potters Corner would be a likely rival.

"If I'm honest he's still a novice and the race which really comes to mind is the National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, but that's only because he is a novice and the reality is the Grand National would be higher on my list," he said.

"It would be silly not to, wouldn't it? I would have to talk to the owners and see how the horse comes out of the race.

"He's a young, unexposed horse. You can't do it without the owners. How many people would let you run a horse as inexperienced as that in a race like this?"

Seven-year-old Secret Reprieve carried the colours of owners Angela and William Rucker from Worcestershire - for whom Evans Williams trained Cappa Bleu to finish third in 2013, as well as Aintree Grand National regular State Of Play among many others.

Williams and Wedge combined to win the Grade One Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on 26 December and the pair continued their fine form this season to land the £150,000 Chepstow prize.

Wedge had taken two nasty falls earlier in the day but defied the knocks to give Secret Reprieve a superb ride despite his girth breaking in the latter stages of the three mile, six furlong trip.

It meant Wedge had to ride to victory with his saddle slipping badly.

"It means an awful lot to us. We didn't think we'd get Adam for the race when he was squashed on the floor. They have patched him up incredibly," Williams added.

"Adam deserves the plaudits because for him to ride like that after two crunching falls was amazing. I take my hat off to him. His girth broke as well.

"The girth has two buckles which keep the saddle on and there is also the overgirth with one buckle which goes around the whole lot. Without the overgirth, Adam would have fallen off."

Chepstow's biggest event of the year had been postponed on its scheduled date of 27 December because of a section of the course being waterlogged.

The rearranged fixture had to survive an inspection at 08:00 GMT to go ahead at the second time of asking but course officials had protected the track from freezing with 5,000 metres of frost covers.

It meant the going was soft, a change to the heavy conditions which are often in place at Chepstow.

Early pace-setters

The Two Amigos and Yala Enki were prominent early on and led the way for the first two circuits with Truckers Lodge for company.

All three horses were keen to test the stamina of their rivals and Secret Reprieve stayed in the middle of the field for almost the entire race.

But as the field came round the final bend, Wedge moved Secret Reprieve into position and his horse - which travelled superbly in stamina-sapping conditions - responded.

Williams' gelding was inch-perfect with his jumping up the run-in and The Two Amigos and Yala Enki could not live with the pace despite impressive runs of their own.

An emotional Williams revealed his late father Rhys used to tease him about his lack of success in Wales' biggest race.

"Before he died I had to listen all about the Welsh Grand National from my father," he laughed.

"He won't be looking down on me, let me tell you. He's looking up at me! I hope it's not too hot for him down there."

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