IT looked like wading through the Somme with horses and jockeys covered in mud, but it proved a walk in the park for the Gary Moore-trained Nassalam, as the Sussex raider ridden by Caoilin Quinn romped to the Coral Welsh Grand National by a huge 34L.

Welsh hope Iwilldoit trained by Monmouthshire’s Sam Thomas finished a brave third following victory in 2021, as the energy-sapping conditions saw just five horses finish at Chepstow Racecourse on Wednesday, with fifth-placed Complete Unknown later revealed to have suffered a ‘fatal injury’.

Victory for Moore’s mudlark sparked emotional scenes at the finish, securing a superb on-day treble for the stable after another Grade Two victory at Chepstow in the Finale Juvenile Hurdle for Salver under conditional rider Quinn, and the Desert Orchid Chase with Editeur Du Gite the same afternoon at Kempton.

Nassalam’s stablehand Gina Gibson couldn’t watch the closing stages of the 128-year-old showcase, as Nassalam stuttered slightly at the last before recovering to romp home unchallenged, his lass breaking down in tears of joy after the horse safely crossed the line.

“I knew he was right but he’s just getting better,” she gasped. “I’m over the moon!”

Nineteen horses came under starter’s orders for the 3 3/4-mile £150,000 race – Wales’ biggest and the largest sporting spectator event in Monmouthshire – on a day of heavy rain that drenched both course and racegoers.

But conditions were almost perfect for 9-2 joint favourite Nassalam, delighted owner John Stone revealing: “The ground is all important... 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.”

Having won the Welsh National Trial on the same course weeks earlier, the mud-caked horse and jockey hit the front easing past Amateur and Complete Unknown with a mile to go.

And with 14 horses failing to finish including last year’s second-placed The Big Breakaway, Nassalam defied the mud and cantered clear of his rivals, winning by the literal country mile despite a heart-in-mouth stumble at the last.

Thomas’ 2021 hero Iwilldoit, starting at 15-2 and this time under Dylan Johnston, held second racing to the last, but was pipped in the run in by Jonjo O’Neill’s 8-1 shot Iron Bridge under son Jonjo Junior.

Winning rider Quinn said: “I winged the first and got in the ideal position just behind the leaders and couldn’t believe how well he travelled. We jumped the middle one down the back and jumped into the lead and I was kind of thinking I don’t want to be there so soon, but he was going so well – I wish I’d had a look now, I won by quite a bit. What a great performance.

“I think the ground is a big factor and I said to Gina (groom) when it was squishing on the ground, he loves this. He just seems to travel so much better on it, he properly loves the mud.

“I’m delighted, over the moon, from winning the Grade Two the last race to this, I can’t believe it and I’m very emotional.

“It is all thanks to my boss and Mr and Mrs Stone for trusting me. I’ve ridden plenty of big winners for them and for them to keep me on, I’m very grateful.”

With trainer Gary Moore at Kempton, it was left to jockey son Jamie, currently recovering from a horror fall at Lingfield in November, to sum up the victory in the winner’s enclosure.

“Obviously the extreme distance has suited him. It was a great performance and we’ll go for the Grand National now. All last season, he wasn’t getting these conditions, but he’s had a bit of soft ground this year and he’s come back to himself. He’s definitely better on soft ground, though they do put a lot more water on it at Aintree than they used to.”

While Thomas, who rode Denman to Gold Cup glory in 2008, had to settle for third this time, Wye Valley trainer Venetia Williams saw her two charges Chambard and Didero Vallis pulled up as her bid for a third Welsh National got stuck in the mud.

Despite the rain, thousands turned out for Wales’ premier race, Chepstow Racecourse posting: “Thank you so much to everyone who braved the weather and joined us for an incredible day of racing – it wouldn’t be the same without the roaring crowd.

“We’d like to congratulate all the jockeys, trainers and owners on their winnings and of course, the team of the 2023 Coral Welsh Grand National winner, Nassalam.

“That’s the third time that the winner of the Welsh Grand National Trial race has won... bring on next year. Over and out for 2023!”