THE Coral Welsh Grand National often generates a good story, and this year’s renewal will be remembered for an exceptional ride from the 16-year-old Welsh apprentice James Bowen on the Irish raider Raz De Maree, writes Phil Bell.

James Bowen is the son of Haverfordwest trainer Peter Bowen, and the younger brother of another successful young rider Sean Bowen. Even before he was old enough to ride in a race he was being spoken about as a future star after his successes pony racing, and he is now attached to the top yard of Nicky Henderson.

He was obviously delighted and surprised to win the biggest race in Wales, something yet to be achieved by his father or brother, and this is sure to be the start of a very successful career.

Bowen’s willing partner, the veteran Raz De Maree, is only three years younger than his rider. His age may have put some punters off, but the horse was second last year and has been in good form again this year, finishing second in the Cork National in November. It’s easy to say now but, in hindsight, he was a good bet at 16/1!

Trained by Gavin Cromwell in Balrath, Co Meath, he has been described by his owners the ‘biggest thing to happen in the parish in forever!' He has started this week by making a celebrity appearance in the family pub, and children from two local primary schools have already paid him a visit.

The rest of the racecard on Saturday was very good too. We saw some exciting young horses in action in the Coral Future Champions Finale Hurdle. The Nicky Henderson trained We Have A Dream came out on top in a really thrilling sprint finish with Sussex Ranger, and he’s now second favourite for the Triumph Hurdle. Last year’s winner Defi Du Seuil did the double, and both We Have A Dream and Sussex Ranger look top class.

The bumper, which is a flat race for young jumping bred horses, saw the most impressive winner of the day. Good Boy Bobby, trained by Nigel Twiston Davies, won with ease despite carrying a weight penalty for a previous win which came at Chepstow in November.

Racing a week and a half after our scheduled day, which was lost to waterlogging, we attracted a crowd of around 5500 for the Coral Welsh Grand National meeting. This was probably just half of what we expected on the 27th, which is somewhat frustrating.

It was still a busy day, and an enjoyable day, and we’ve had some great publicity from both the result of the race and from the coverage of the weather. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been asked about the much-used photograph of me standing in the temporary lake which appeared on our track!

There has been lots of discussion over the past fortnight about whether the race would be best moved to a less ‘risky’ time of the year.

However, in October the ground is unlikely to be suitable, in November and March we’d be clashing with rugby fixtures and by April you’ve got Aintree and the Scottish and Irish Nationals to compete with.

We’ve been unlucky with the weather in recent years, but we’ll persevere with 27th December for a bit longer and hope for better luck for the 2018 renewal.