Enki runs fine Grand National trial
Paul Nicholls will have viewed the result of the Coral Welsh Grand National with mixed feelings. On one hand, it’s a great achievement to saddle two of the first three home in the prestigious Chepstow marathon, but on the other, finishing second with Truckers Corner and third with Yala Enki has to be frustrating.
Only local hero Potters Corner managed to thwart what would have been a famous 1-2.
Both of the champion trainer’s representatives had their chances from the second last fence in the three-and-three-quarter-mile slog through the South Wales mud, but in the end they just couldn’t repel the Christian Williams-trained winner, who beat Truckers Lodge by a length-and-three-quarters, with Yala Enki just a length further back in third, occupying that position for the second year running.
Yala Enki best horse at the weights
The Welsh National is, of course, a handicap, so the fact that Yala Enki conceded a massive 17lbs to the winner and a whopping 19lbs to the runner-up, clearly indicates that the Bryony Frost-ridden mud lover comes out as officially the best horse at the weights.
Having only his second start for Nicholls, having been trained since 2014 by the excellent Venetia Williams, the gelded son of Nickname joined the Ditcheat team as an already established and talented staying handicapper who has long since shown his ability to handle testing conditions over extended distances.
Proven talent over hurdles and fences
Winner of the Listed Lanzarote Handicap Hurdle at Kempton in 2016, the French bred has done even better over the larger obstacles, winning six of his 26 races and being placed a further seven times in good company.
At Haydock in February 2018, he showed himself to be a staying handicapper of some note, putting up a visually stunning effort to beat Grade 1 winner Blacklion (who came into the race on the back of a win in the Becher Chase at Aintree) by a remarkable 54 lengths in the Grade 3 Betfred Grand National Trial Handicap Chase, over three-and-a-half miles in heavy ground.
Consistent at a high level
Yala Enki stayed on to finish sixth over 3m1f in the Ultima Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival next time out, a trip that is some way short of his best.
The following season he began by successfully conceding 23lbs to Sir Mangan in a decent handicap chase at Bangor, then ran a cracker to finish third to Elegant Escape in the Coral Welsh National, a finishing position he repeated recently off a 1lb higher mark.
His final start for Venetia Williams was a commendable seventh place behind Al Boum Photo in the best race of all, the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Tailor-made for a soft ground Grand National
Aintree in April could well be the target now for Yala Enki. We know he stays well and is a sound jumper, but the key to this horse is the ground.
If there has been plenty of rain around Merseyside in the days or weeks leading up to the Randox Health Grand National, he will have a genuine chance of being right in the mix. Soft, or ideally heavy conditions would prove a major boost to his chances, although he would not be without hope if it was Good to Soft.
Available at up to 66/1* for the Grand National following his latest valiant effort in the Welsh National, Yala Enki will be the ideal age of 10 if he takes his chance on April 4, and if the heavens have opened and stamina becomes the major prerequisite over the extended four-and-quarter miles, there is no doubt he’ll have a solid chance for a yard that tasted success in the great race back in 2012 with the gallant last stride winner, Neptune Collonges.
*Odds subject to change.