Thomas plays down Aintree hopes with Iwilldoit
Trainer Sam Thomas is non-committal on the hopes of Welsh National winner Iwilldoit lining up in the Aintree Grand National this spring, instead suggesting it might be 2023 before he rocks up on Merseyside.
Iwilldoit, who turned nine on New Year’s Day, last week won the Chepstow showpiece in the hands of Stan Sheppard to give Thomas the biggest win so far of his training career.
He was well-fancied in the betting at 13/2 having romped home in the early-December Welsh National Trial at the track and – just like a Secret Reprieve before him – Iwilldoit followed up victory in the race with a decisive success in the big festive contest.
Talk of Aintree may be too soon
Thomas wants to sit down with owners Diamond Racing Ltd in the coming weeks before coming up with a solid plan.
Iwilldoit has won three times from only four starts as a chaser and, while he’s clearly progressing, his trainer worries Aintree might be coming too soon.
He admits there has hardly been time to allow the Chepstow success sink in over the week that has passed since and says there’s just a ‘small chance’ at this point that his charge will feature at Aintree come April.
“There is a small possibility he might go for the Grand National, but I would imagine that might be next season if anything,” Thomas told Sky Sports Racing.
“He is still fairly inexperienced and no disrespect to Chepstow fences – they are nice fences – but our horse just has a jumping style where he just flicks through his fences and I’m not sure he will be quite ready for the test of the bigger fences at Aintree just yet.
“We have got lots of options, though. That’s the main thing.”
Proud of Chepstow win
It was a proud day all round at Chepstow. Jockey Stan Sheppard enjoyed the biggest winner of his young career to date as Iwilldoit scored by nine-lengths from Highland Hunter, the latter representing champion trainer Paul Nicholls.
Thomas, of course, famously partnered Denman to Gold Cup glory at Cheltenham back in 2008 when riding for the Ditcheat handler, seeing off the mighty Kauto Star in an enduring renewal of the Blue Riband.
It’s a feat he remains proud of – and one he’s forever to be associated with – but he says winning the Welsh National is a big step towards being recognised for his own training feats.
“I don’t mind being associated with [Denman], but I need to make my own tracks now,” he said. “I’m lucky I was associated with him, but hopefully now I get recognised as a trainer instead.
“I’ve been over in those woods as a seven- or eight-year-old hunting, looking across here thinking I wanted to be here one day as a jockey and I’d be running underneath the archway as a kid watching the horses canter to the start for the Welsh National. It kind of feels like home, so it’s very special [to have won the race].”
Hat-trick of Welsh wins
Iwilldoit completed a hat-trick of successes for Welsh trainers in the race, following on from Potters Corner in 2019 for Christian Williams and the 2020 win of Secret Reprieve for Evan Williams.
The victory was Thomas’ biggest career success as a trainer, his first graded victory on his own license, and the Vale of Glamorgan-based handler ensured home-trained horses would win three Welsh Nationals on the trot for the first time in history.
With the New Year to get over in between, he hasn’t had much time to dwell on the win.
“It has been a bit of a whirlwind. We haven’t had a big celebration yet, but we will have to plan a get-together with everyone involved, but in this industry nothing ever stops. We haven’t had the time to celebrate just yet,” he added.
“Iwilldoit is up 9lb to a mark of 149 now. He is absolutely fine and has come out of the race fine, and we haven’t made any plans whatsoever really.”