Saturday 14 December 2019

The National win, Cromwell's 13-year-old equine hero and his 16-year-old jockey

James Bowen with Raz De Maree after their victory in the Coral Welsh Grand National Handicap Chase. Photo credit: David Davies/PA Wire.
James Bowen with Raz De Maree after their victory in the Coral Welsh Grand National Handicap Chase. Photo credit: David Davies/PA Wire. Sportsdesk

Saturday's Welsh National winner Raz De Maree - which at 13 is just three years younger than winning jockey James Bowen - will need testing conditions at Aintree if he's to try to supplement the Randox Health Grand National to his Chepstow success.

Raz De Maree, which started at 16/1 despite finishing runner-up in the race last season, is the oldest horse since before World War II to win the staying chase while Bowen is the youngest rider to win the race.

Yesterday Gavin Cromwell reported his charge - only the second Irish-trained winner in the history of the race - to be in great shape after arriving back home at his County Meath yard. "He's out in the paddock and in good order. It was a great result and a fantastic day," he said.

Raz De Maree was eighth on his first attempt at Aintree in 2014 when trained by the late Dessie Hughes and last season unseated his rider at the sixth, Becher's Brook.

He could attempt to make it third time lucky but only if testing conditions prevail and has the Midlands National at Uttoxeter - in which he finished second in 2015 - and the Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse as alternatives.

Cromwell said: "The problem is that Aintree is the last of the three and there could be a danger that we wait for that and then the ground comes up good and we'd regret it.

"It won't be an easy decision and we'll just have to see how things stand nearer the time.

"He was unlucky in Aintree last year as he sidestepped a faller and unseated his rider and he has jumped round there before."

As for the horse's record-breaking young rider, the trainer heaped praise on the Welsh teenager who looks destined for the top of the jockey ranks.

"He gave him a peach of a ride," said Cromwell. "He was flat to the boards down the back, but he didn't panic and he stayed on. This is fantastic, just brilliant."

The jockey - who has been making great strides in his first full season as a conditional - didn't hide his delight.

"He's only a few years younger than me," he smiled in the winner's enclosure. "We didn't travel anywhere at all and I thought we'd do well to get round and pick up a place.

"Once he passed a few horses, he then picked up the bit and we ended up getting there too soon.

"It's amazing to win. You grow up watching these races at home and to win it in my first (full) season riding is amazing."

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