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Gats and Co Couldn’t tempt Warren… but it might interest punters at the Welsh Grand National

Warren Gatland could be left regretting he didn’t become a racehorse owner if Gats And Co romps home to win the Coral Welsh Grand National next week.

The horse – named after the returning Wales coach – is a 100/1 outsider with the bookies but Gatland has form when it comes to turning outsiders into champions.

The New Zealander – who has taken charge of Wales for the second time after succeeding Wayne Pivac – was offered the chance to be part of a syndicate by the horse’s owner and trainer, David Brace.

“I named him Gats and Co, hoping he and the boys in our friendship group would get involved, but they never did,” says Brace.

“Maybe I wasn’t a good enough salesman to quite tempt Warren into it!

“But he likes his racing, so you never say never.”

Even though Gatland, and the mutual friends he shares with Brace, were all enticed to turn their racing interest into ownership four years ago, they eventually opted not to take the plunge.

Now, though, they could be left rueing a missed opportunity if the seven-year-old horse, trained at Brace’s Dunraven stables near Bridgend, upsets the form book at Chepstow on December 27.

Final declarations for the race were made on Wednesday and although Welsh bookmakers DragonBet make Gats and Co a long shot at 100/1, Welsh trainers have won the showpiece race for the last three years.

If you need some omens, then Gatland won three Grand Slams in his first stint as Wales coach and Gats and Co is already a three-time winner over the jumps at Chepstow.

Like Gatland himself, there’s a family connection, too. Gatland’s son Bryn, 27, is a professional rugby player with the Chiefs back in New Zealand.

Gats and Co will be ridden next Tuesday by Connor Brace, David’s 21-year-old grandson. Brace’s other grandson, Max, is a former Ospreys academy player, currently at the prestigious Hartpury College in Gloucestershire.

Brace insists Gats and Co may not have tempted Gatland himself, but he reckons a few punters might get some cash on his runner.

 “I am delighted he’s running,” adds Brace. “He’s won there three times and the ground should suit him. It’s just great to have a runner in the Welsh Grand National.

“He’s in great form, too. He managed to get his work done through the frost and the snow and we kept him going.

“It was always going to be a case of if he’s given a chance, he’ll have a good chance. He will have low weight, he’s a course specialist and has won three times before over the fences at Chepstow.

“He’s only a seven-year-old, so maybe his time will be next year, but you never know.”

As for Gatland, then Brace – who founded Dunraven Windows – believes his friend can also overcome the long odds being quoted for Wales to win the Six Nations title or even next year’s World Cup.

“I spoke with him a couple of days ago and he’s looking forward to doing the role again. If you asked me, could that man take us to the World Cup final next year, then I’d say, ‘yes’, he’s capable of doing that.

“I know that we haven’t had a great autumn series, but there are a lot of reasons behind that.

“A lot of senior players have been held in check because it’s the Six Nations which is the big one.”

Gats and Co is one of three Welsh-trained horses that have been declared among the 26 runners for Welsh racing’s biggest race of the year.

Wayfinder, trained by Rebecca Curtis, is another three-time winner at Chepstow but disappointed when he pulled up in the Welsh Grand National Trial earlier this month. He’s at 25/1.

More likely to figure among the favourites is Curtis’s other horse, Pats Fancy, currently priced at 9/1.

The horse was quietly fancied at last year’s Cheltenham festival when it lined up in the amateur jockeys race but sustained a small injury that kept it off the track until its seasonal re-appearance at Chepstow earlier this month.

Pats Fancy tailed off on that occasion but is expected to come on for the run this time and it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see him there fighting out the finish.

This year, crowds will be back at the Welsh Grand National after two years when Covid restrictions meant the stands were almost empty.

DragonBet’s James Lovell says: “It’ll be fantastic to be back standing in the betting ring as DragonBet in front of a full house.

“Covid restrictions meant limited crowds last year following a fully behind-closed-doors event in 2020.

“What won’t be so great for a Welsh bookie is a Welsh winner! We had one of our worst bookmaking days ever when Potters Corner won the race for the rugby player, Jonathan Davies and co in 2019.

“I’ll be expecting another painful day if Gat’s and Co wins the big one! We had an expensive time when we quoted prices for Warren to be the next Welsh coach – there was a flood of money for him to get the job – and knowing how patriotic the Welsh crowd can be, it’ll be no surprise to see the horse just as well backed on the day.”

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