There was relentless rain and hock deep mud but, as Nassalam galloped further clear, there were also tears of joy and beaming smiles.
It’s not uncommon for the Coral Welsh Grand National to produce a wide-margin winner but this was something else completely, Gary Moore’s dashing chestnut giving his young jockey Caoilin Quinn the biggest victory of his career and leaving his lass Gina Gibson weeping in disbelief.
‘I knew he was right but he’s just getting better,’ she gasped. ‘I’m over the moon!’
She wasn’t alone. Nassalam had a staggering 34 lengths in hand of his rivals, leaving owners John and Yvonne Stone dumbfounded by the way he floated through the sodden terrain as if he was on skis and bounced over Chepstow’s challenging fences as if having the assistance of a trampoline.
So big and dominant was the victory in this historic contest, it made you think about the demolition job of Carvill’s Hill in 1991. Nassalam, according to those in Moore’s canny stable, wouldn’t impress anyone with his morning work but put him on a racetrack and the story is totally different.
Nassalam destroyed the field to win the Coral Welsh Grand National on Wednesday
Caoilin Quinn celebrates winning The Coral Welsh Grand National Handicap Chase on Nassalam at Chepstow Racecourse
In front of an enthusiastic crowd, 19 runners set off over the three-and-three-quarter-mile trip but Nassalam, who had shown his wellbeing at the start of this month when winning the Welsh National trial, took them off their feet; 14 rivals pulled up, only four others finished.
Iron Bridge, trained by Jonjo O’Neill, took the runners-up spot but that detail was only for housekeeping. Nassalam, the 9-2 joint-favourite, had the prize in safe keeping for some time and will now get an entry in the Randox Grand National.
‘The ground is all important for Nassalam,’ said John Stone, wearing a scarf with the same green-and-white silks of his horse. ‘The ideal conditions for him are probably just about when a meeting is about to be abandoned! ‘This was perfect. The stable prepared him and Caoilin rode him beautifully.’
Quinn is a 22-year-old from Downpatrick who has worked for Moore for the last four and a half years. This, by some way, was his finest day in the saddle as 40 minutes before Nassalam’s heroics, he had guided Salver to a wide-margin win in the Coral Finale Juvenile Hurdle, also for his boss.
‘I can’t quite believe this,’ said Quinn. ‘I couldn’t believe how well he was going down the back straight. When I turned in, he was still travelling hard on the bridle. We jumped three out, I gave him a kick and I couldn’t believe how far ahead we were. What a performance!
‘This is the day of my life, the best winner of my life. Long may it continue! It’s just unbelievable to have that half-hour. Our horses seem to be at their best when the ground is like this but what two superstars I have ridden here. I won’t ever forget this.’
Salver’s task may have been made easier by the late withdrawal of Burdett Road, who was going to be sent off the odds-on favourite. The ground was never going to be to the liking of trainer James Owen’s gelding but, even if he had run, he would have needed to be at his very best to win.
Gary Moore at Kempton after completing a big race double with Nassalam in the Welsh National at Chepstow and Editeur Du Gite in the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton.
These were Quinn’s 10th and 11th victories of a campaign that took time to get going due to a broken collarbone but there will be plenty more to come in 2024 and the assurance with which he handled the responsibility of these rides augurs well for his future.
If that wasn’t enough for Moore, there was another significant win at Kempton as Editeur Du Gite took the Desert Orchid Chase, ridden by the yard’s other conditional rider Niall Houlihan; days do not come much better.
‘They are the best two conditionals in the country,’ said Jamie Moore, representing his father. ‘They are doing a very good job, they work very hard and we are delighted for them.
‘We thought Nassalam was the class horse in the race and when you travel like he did, it really helps.
‘It’s been a very good day for us. The whole stable works so hard. It’s down to Dad, (brother) Josh and the results are there for all to see. I was very pleased with Salver. Hopefully he is going to be a nice horse in the future.’
Jamie kept smiling in an understated way but it was hard not to have some sympathy for him. He, really, would have been the one in the saddle for both these triumphs but he is currently wearing a neck brace, a necessity after a horrible fall at Lingfield in November.