Welsh horse racing is going through its most triumphant era. To showcase all the action, an exciting three-day meeting has been put together across our very own Ffos Las Racecourse, and at our sister course Chepstow. Taking place in October, the Welsh weekend of racing aims to attract racegoers to this beautiful country to see top quality jumping action, and enjoy a weekend in the majestic landscape of Wales.
The three day fixture includes the £50,000 DragonBet Welsh Champion Hurdle at Ffos Las, as well as the £50,000 Unibet Persian War Novices’ Hurdle and the £75,000 Wasdell Group Silver Trophy Handicap Hurdle at Chepstow.
In this current era of remarkable success for Welsh racing, several notable achievements stand out. Geoff Lewis's triumphs alongside Mill Reef in the early 1970s, Sirrell Griffith's remarkable victory with Norton's Coin at 100/1 in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 1990, and Carl Llewellyn's highly accomplished career in the saddle from 1990 to 2005, which included victories in the Welsh, Scottish, and Aintree Grand Nationals (twice). Since then, Welsh racing has consistently grown and flourished. Explore the following cards to delve into further details about the prominent trainers, jockeys, and racecourses that contribute to the vibrant landscape of Welsh racing.
A new breed of Welsh trainers and jockeys started to develop in the 1990s.
Point trainer Peter Bowen was the first. Buoyed by the success of five of his nine runners under Rules in 1994/95 he took out a full trainers’ licence and the following year Iffeee won six races. The following season Stately Home won ten out of the stable’s total of 33. The fact that this new trainer was operating not just from Wales, but from Haverfordwest – was remarkable.
A bandwagon was starting to roll. There were a few hitches – foot and mouth in the early part of the new millennium hit hard – but then successful jockeys between the flags such as Evan Williams and then Tim Vaughan hung up their saddles to try training and they quickly met with success.
Similarly, Christian Williams came through the ranks of pointing jockeys to be snapped up by the multiple leading trainer Paul Nicholls. Sam Thomas followed a different route before joining him at Ditcheat but between them they rode 232 winners for Nicholls, earning almost £4m in prize money.
Now they are back in Wales training winners, especially in big races such as the Coral Welsh and Scottish Nationals. Their success encourages local people to own horses, forming a virtuous circle. Welsh trainers won over £2m in prize money last season.
Irish and English jockeys rode most of the Evan Williams and Tim Vaughan runners for a while and that accounts for a dip in the Welsh jockeys’ winners’ table. Then another Bowen set off a change. In his first full season, 2014/15, Sean Bowen rode 51 winners. Since then, sons and daughters of the new trainers have come of age – in the saddle, and a host of other young riders inspired by Welsh racing’s resurgence. James Bowen, Connor Brace, Ben Jones, Richard Patrick, Jack Tudor, Isabel Williams and Lorcan Williams.
Since its establishment in 2009, Ffos Las has revolutionised the landscape of Welsh horse racing, creating new opportunities for trainers, jockeys, and owners. Being the first newly constructed National Hunt course in the UK in 80 years, Ffos Las has emerged as a magnificent addition to the Welsh racing scene.
Since the relocation of the Coral Welsh Grand National in 1949, Chepstow has proudly held the title of Wales's premier racecourse. Today, this magnificent venue warmly embraces and entertains thousands of enthusiastic racegoers annually, solidifying its place as a cherished destination in the heart of Welsh horse racing.