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Article 14th January 2023 Warwick

By Nick Seddon

Last season’s Welsh Grand National hero Iwilldoit (12-1) defied a 383-day absence to make a winning return in the Wigley Group Classic Handicap Chase, on what proved to be an emotional day for his connections. 

The 10 year old hasn’t been seen since that emphatic Chepstow success in December 2021 due to injury, but he showed no signs of rustiness, and slowly picked his way through the field in stamina-sapping conditions.

Jockey Stan Sheppard showed patience in abundance on his mount, who started to take control heading around the back straight. The absence of the final fence meant it was a long run in for Sam Thomas’ charge, but he hung on bravely to seal a two and three quarter success.

It sealed an emotional victory for owners the Diamond Racing Syndicate as their Racing Manager Kevin Burgess explained: “Chris Morgan is a really good friend of mine and he has had a really terrible time at the moment.

“His son Dillan was injured playing rugby and he’s had to have brain surgery, so Chris has been going through a terrible time.

“He needed a boost and this is for him. I’m so delighted for him, Chris has been through hell and I can’t imagine what he’s gone through. Dillon is 12 and was playing rugby in South Wales back in October, he’ll be ok thankfully and he’s got some treatment yet – but it was very scary when it happened.”

Iwilldoit was shortened into a general price of 20-1 for the Randox Grand National at Aintree, though Burgess was keen to enjoy the day before turning his attention to the world’s greatest chase at Aintree on April 15th.

He continued: “That was unbelievable, he’s been off 13 months. It’s just a wonderful training performance. We knew he’d stay and that the conditions were in his favour, but that probably fit the bill for several others in the race as well.

“We were hopeful rather than expectant, but coming round that final circuit it was like the Welsh National all over again – others were falling away and we were picking them off. Once he got into the lead I just couldn’t see anything beating him, it was incredible.

“Sadly the owners couldn’t be with us for the Welsh National win because of Covid restrictions. It was frustrating because if the race was in England they’d have been able to come, so to have this day today is better and that’s because they’re here.

“He’d have to run again to get in the National, but that’s Sam’s department rather than mine. We’ll have a chat, but he’d probably have to have the right ground. Stamina-wise there’s no issue and I think he’ll jump the fences as jumping is his strength, but we’ll have a look once we’ve all calmed down. He’s 10 now so it would be the time to do it, so we’ll give it some considerable thought.”

The winning trainer Sam Thomas added: "We didn't get him in till a bit later unfortunately and he missed the Welsh National. I'm just delighted for everyone. It's emotional.

“He’s just been a bit of a worrier and a fussy eater but as the years have gone on he’s got a bit more mature. He’s certainly a lot easier to train than he was over the years – those were his conditions and that was amazing.

“He doesn’t need these conditions, but the speed he was going at the start was the same speed that he was going at the finish. He’s very one-paced and it’s nice that he’s given us a few options going forward – but the softer the better.

“I don’t know about Aintree, he needs another run over fences as he’s still not qualified to run in the Grand National. He needs six runs over fences and he’s only had five starts, so we’d need to run him again before the weights come out. It’s been a whirlwind season so far so we’ll enjoy this today. We could look at something like the Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris.”

Race sponsor The Wigley Group is offering a £100,000 bonus this season if the Classic Chase winner goes on to success in the Randox Grand National. One For Arthur in 2017 landed both races.

Meanwhile, another horse who could be on the road to the Randox Grand National is the Dan Skelton-trained Ashtown Lad (2-1), who was a game second in the penultimate Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle.

It looked as though last month’s Becher Chase winner was going to follow up over hurdles having travelled ominously well into the straight under Harry Skelton, before ultimately finding the Charlie Longsdon-trained mare Glimpse Of Gala (7-4 Favourite) too tough a nut to crack.

However, Skelton was thrilled with what he saw from his charge, who is a 20-1 chance for the Aintree spectacular – though he warned that he would have to prove his stamina before he was guaranteed to line up.

He said: “That was a really good run and we’re really happy to him. Fair play to the winner as she’s a really gritty horse and she picked up well, but ours isn’t a hurdler.

“I wanted to run him because he’s in good form at home and I didn’t want to then press hard in early February, so that will just keep him ticking over and I’m really happy with him.

“He didn’t quite stay from the back of the last, three miles in soft ground over hurdles is a long trip for any horse. You’re going to want to ask me Grand National questions and that’s my only concern with him – I still have a very unanswered question about that trip.

“He’ll go to Ascot next for the Swinley Chase and I think he’ll be a fair player. I think 145 has got you into the National every year so we’ll see.”


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