Mud-loving Nassalam seals special day for Moore with Welsh National romp

<span>Photograph: David Davies/PA</span>
Photograph: David Davies/PA

Strong winds and regular, torrential showers meant demanding conditions for horses and racegoers alike, but there were no complaints from the connections of Nassalam as the mud-lover strode 34 lengths clear in the Coral Welsh Grand National to complete a remarkable afternoon for Gary Moore’s stable in Sussex.

The yard had already registered a Grade Two double in the Finale Juvenile Hurdle and the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton when Caoilin Quinn and Nassalam set off as a 9-2 joint-favourite for the biggest race of the Welsh racing year. Like all but the two jockeys on the front-running Amateur and Complete Unknown, Quinn’s white silks were a muddy brown within a few furlongs of the three-and-three-quarter mile trip, but the conditional rider was settled in a perfect position just behind the leaders and was still cruising a few minutes later as he eased past Amateur and into the lead with about a mile to run.

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There were echoes of Carvill’s Hill’s memorable success under top weight in 1991 in the relentless ease of Nassalam’s gallop up the home straight, going further clear of his pursuers with every stride. Iron Bridge, at 8-1, eventually crossed the line in second, with Iwilldoit, the winner two years ago, back in third.

With Gary Moore opting to be at Kempton, his son and stable jockey, Jamie, who is currently wearing a neck brace as he recovers from injuries sustained in a fall at Lingfield in November, was in the winner’s enclosure here to welcome back the yard’s first winner of the race.

“Obviously the extreme distance has suited him,” Moore said. “It was a great performance and we’ll go for the Grand National now. All last season, he wasn’t getting these conditions, but he’s had a bit of soft ground this year and he’s come back to himself. He’s definitely better on soft ground, though they do put a lot more water on it at Aintree than they used to.”

Moore’s younger brother, Josh, announced his retirement from the saddle earlier this year following a fall at Haydock in the autumn of 2022, and Moore dismissed the possibility of being back in the saddle in time to ride Nassalam at Aintree. “I’m not sure what’s going to be happening,” he said. “I’m out for at least three months yet. Caoilin is a very good rider, for me we’ve got the two best conditionals in the country with him and Houli [Niall Houlihan].”

Quinn was completing a double after riding Salver to a similarly easy success in the Finale Juvenile Hurdle. His task was eased by the absence of Burdett Road, the ante-post favourite for the Triumph Hurdle, due to the softening ground, but it was still a promising performance and enough to see his odds for the Triumph cut to around 16-1.

Houlihan, meanwhile, was aboard Editeur Du Gite, the winner of Kempton’s Desert Orchid Chase for the second year running. It was an emotional victory for the nine-year-old’s part-owner, Trevor Jacobs, who was in hospital for Editeur Du Gite’s victory 12 months ago after being diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome but was able to welcome his horse back to the winner’s enclosure in person on Wednesday.

“Last year, I was in a hospital bed shouting as I couldn’t move,” Jacobs said. “All the bells were ringing on the intensive care bed as everyone thought I was having a heart attack, and I was shouting and bawling. They couldn’t believe it, but that was the first big winner I had.”

There were two Grade One contests on the card for the second day of the Christmas meeting at Leopardstown, but the most significant performance of the afternoon was arguably Marine Nationale’s impressive debut over fences in the two-mile beginners’ chase.

Barry Connell’s six-year-old is now a shade of odds-on with some firms for the Arkle Trophy at Cheltenham in March, and his trainer is thinking even further into the future. “He’s the quickest horse I’ve ever had,” Connell told Racing TV. “If we wanted to squeeze in a Flat race at some stage, he’d probably be a graded horse on the Flat.

Catterick 12.30 Trac 1.05 New Order 1.40 Guillaume 2.15 Parkin Fine 2.50 Elleon 3.23 God’s Own Getawa

Newcastle 3.30 Blue Yonder 4.00 Cosmos Raj 4.30 Inverlochy 5.00 August 5.30 Jahidin (nap) 6.00 Filly One 6.30 Professor Tickle (nb)  Secret Road

Leicester Abandoned because of rain

“I want to win a Champion Chase with him, that’s where we’re going. It’s my favourite race, everyone would love to have a Gold Cup horse but when I was a kid going to Cheltenham, Badsworth Boy, Viking Flagship, all those horses. That’s what really gets the pulse racing, a horse going at full speed. It’s a good bit away, but that’s the long-term aim.”

Willie Mullins, who will saddle Galopin Des Champs, last season’s Gold Cup winner, in the Savills Chase at Leopardstown on Thursday, picked up his first Grade One of the meeting when Dinoblue took the card’s two-mile chase, while Gordon Elliott’s Caldwell Potter is on offer at around 8-1 for the Supreme Novice Hurdle after a six-and-a-half length success in the Grade One Future Champions Novice Hurdle.