A full compliment of twenty runners took to the Chepstow fences for the 2013 Coral Welsh National with the Richard Lee trained Mountainous reigning victorious after one of the closest finishes in the races history.
Mountainous, Hawkes Point and the epic Tidal Bay, just days off his 13th birthday, battled it out for first, second and third with Mountainous just edging out his rivals by a nose to cross the finishing post first for jockey Paul Moloney.
Mountainous, Welsh-owned and trained, returned at 20-1 with One In A Milan placing fourth and Merry King filling fifth-place, though both were a decent distance behind the front three, who were separated by less than a length.
With very heavy ground to contend with, the Welsh National was always going to be an incredible test of stamina and by the entrance to the straight only about half of the field were still left in contention and with a realistic hope of coming away with a win or even a place.
Grand National winning duo, trainer Sue Smith and jockey Ryan Mania, had a fantastic opportunity to do the double as Mania led with Vintage Star on the run up to the home straight but over the third last he was out-jumped and began to lose steam as Mountainous and Hawkes Point battled on with Tidal Bay stalking them on the outside.
Tidal Bay, the oldest horse in the race by two years, was looking for what would have been the most remarkable win of an already extraordinary career and approaching two from home he slipped into third place, behind his stablemate, Hawkes Point.
The three took the last within a second of each other and it was only in the final yards that Hawkes Point and Tidal Bay finally began to close the very narrow gap, but it was too little, too late and Mountainous held on for a richly deserved victory.
Speaking after the win trainer Lee, who had previously won the Coral Welsh National in 2011 with Le Beau Bai, said: “The moment he came into the yard as a five-year-old, I said he was a Welsh National horse, especially with his owners.”
Asked whether the Grand National could be an option with the eight-year-old, Lee added: “This was the plan. That’s all I am saying at the moment.
“Winning the race again is up with any emotion.”
Lee and connections scooped £56,950.00 for the win with Paul Nicholls boosting his earnings by having the second and third place finishers earning his connections just over £32K for their trouble.
As expected, UK bookmakers have now inserted the first three home into the Crabbies Grand National markets with Tidal Bay as short as 25/1 with some despite the fact that he will be 13 years old by the time the race is run on April 5th 2014.