Goonyella ready for battle in Coral Welsh Grand National
6:01am Saturday 28th December 2013 in Sport
THE IRISH trained Goonyella has already taken part in one marathon to get to Chepstow, but has reportedly settled in well ahead of today’s Coral Welsh Grand National, writes Melissa Jones.
Bad weather cancelled his original ferry crossing on Christmas Eve, which forced trainer Jim Dreaper to take emergency steps to get his challenger to Wales for the £100,000 race. The six-year-old embarked on his long journey at 7am on Boxing Day to Belfast port.
With his companion horse Saunders, he travelled across to Stranraer in the lorry which carried on by road to Haydock Park racecourse where it had a brief stop at 6pm.
Both horses were pulled out for a comfort break and a stretch of their legs, before making their onward journey to Chepstow where they arrived at midnight.
Originally Goonyella was pencilled in for a five-night stay in Wales, but the weather put paid to the plans.
“We wouldn’t have chosen to do it this way but it had to be done,” said Dreaper.
“The lad who’s with him says he seems well. Goonyella has been drinking, he has eaten up and settled in well.”
The horse was originally in the frame to contest today’s (FRI) Paddy Power Chase, but instead the Irish team decided to take him on his travels, in a bid to repeat their victory with Notre Pere in 2008.
“He’s only six years old, it’s possibly asking a bit too much but we a having a go,” said Dreaper, who caught a plane to Bristol with daughter Shona this morning (FRI).
A full field of twenty horses were declared for Wales’ biggest horse race yesterday.
Paul Nicholls’ top weight Tidal Bay will have to give upwards of ten pounds to his 19 rivals, including stablemate Hawkes Point, who races off just ten stone.
Welsh trainers have three horses entered, last year’s second Teaforthree, Harouet and One In a Milan.
Richard Lee, who won the race in 2011 with Le Beau Bai, runs Knock A Hand and Mountainous, the latter for the owner of Ffos Las Racecourse Dai Walters.
The going is heavy as the course has taken 97mm of rain since December 18.
Chepstow’s Executive Director Phil Bell said: “I’m delighted we are going ahead despite the weather, the quality of the field is great and thirdly our advance bookings have been very strong. We are looking forward to putting on a great day for those who love their racing or are looking for a leisure day out.”