Trainer with the magic touch
11:25am Monday 30th December 2013 in Sport
A POSSE of Welsh owners clung on for a famous victory at Chepstow for a trainer who is quickly becoming the master of its biggest race, writes Melissa Jones.
Richard Lee’s Mountainous, a 20-1 shot, gamely repelled the late surge of Hawkes Point in the Welsh Grand National to follow up Le Beau Bai’s win two years ago.
It pays to follow what the trainer from the Welsh border saddles in this race with his stable of mud lovers and his Knock A Hand also put up a bold show here before fading in the straight.
Mountainous was always creeping along behind his stablemate, travelling strongly into the race and the result looked a formality as jockey Paul Moloney gave him the office to go into the lead two fences from home.
But the rallying Paul Nicholls pair of Hawkes Point and Tidal Bay had other ideas, gradually hunting him down, and as they landed over the last it looked like any of the trio could prevail.
In a war of attrition, Mountainous, for Ffos Las owner Dai Walters and the Potters, kept on bravely to win by just a head, with half a length back to the third.
It was touch and go whether the eight-year-old, the focus of a media day by Chepstow racecourse, would even get into the race because he was well down in the handicap.
Lee was thrilled his horse seized his chance: “It's brilliant, this was the plan. He has always stayed well. I’m not interested in the betting but I couldn’t believe he was a 20-1 shot.”
The success was a great tonic for all at the Presteigne yard, who were saddnened to have lost Le Beau Bai to a pelvic injury in the build up to the last Welsh National.
"It was tragic what happened to him," said Lee about his former stable star.
"I often wondered if we would ever have another one."
Will Kellard, the lad who led Mountainous up, said: "I remember Richard saying when the horse came to the yard he would win the Welsh National with him. He really knows how to train them."
He reported the horse, taken away quite early out of the enclosure after the marathon contest, to have been tired after the race, but he has now recovered from his exertions.
Lee is mindful of carefully plotting the horse's next outing after his hard race and will just enjoy the big win first: "We've got lots to look forward to but he'll tell me when he's ready to run again," he added.
The course reported an attendance of 8,000 for their biggest day of the year.