Glamorgan trainer Christian Williams sees victory in the Randox Grand National as the only thing that could top Potters Corner’s Welsh National win.
The 11-year-old won the Chepstow staying contest in 2019 and then the Midlands Grand National in the same season, before taking aim at Aintree in 2020.
The Covid-19 outbreak put paid to that idea. But the gelding, who is partly owned by Welsh rugby star Jonathan Davies along with a new syndicate RacehorseClub, did enjoy a different kind of Grand National success when taking the virtual version instead.
A computer-simulated contest which uses an algorithm to determine the finishing order of the field, the virtual Grand National was more widely watched than ever after the cancellation of the real race – and the programmers behind the event calculated that Potters Corner would have passed the post ahead of Walk In The Mill, Any Second Now and Tiger Roll.
Potters Corner has run three times since that animated victory, his best result being a third-placed performance in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase at Cheltenham’s November meeting.
A minor over-reach injury prevented him from returning to Prestbury Park in March to run over the same course at the Cheltenham Festival, but Williams now reports the gelding to be fully recovered and on track for his trip to the real Aintree this year.
“He seems well – we’ve galloped him, and I’m happy,” he said.
“We’ll gallop him somewhere else and we’ll try to jump a National fence as well before.”
No ill-effects of his over-reach issue linger, and Williams is reassured rather than concerned by the bay’s unremarkable work on the gallops at home.
“He’s all good, he seems well at the moment,” he said.
“It’s obviously day by day with any horse, but we’re happy with him.
“We’ve worked him, and he’s worked the way he normally does. He never works very well, but that’s normal, so we’re pleased.”
The rest of Williams’ Ogmore Farm string are also in rude health – something he is drawing confidence from for the journey to Liverpool.
“We’ve got a bit of yard momentum now – everything we run seems to run well,” he said.
“I think that’s very important. Everything seems healthy, and we’re flying at the moment.
“(The) trainer’s confident, the jockey’s confident, everything’s going well at the moment – and we think he’s capable of running a big race.
“We’re looking forward to it now – our confidence is growing.”
Potters Corner will be steered around Aintree by young jockey Jack Tudor, his usual pilot who was in the saddle when they were victorious in the Welsh Grand National.
Tudor is yet to take on the famous course at Liverpool – and although Williams finished second in the race aboard Royal Auclair in 2005, he does not intend to provide his rider with detailed directions.
“I don’t usually get involved with riding instructions,” he said.
“You’re using someone because you know they’re capable, so I’ll leave that to him.”
Potters Corner is a horse who has very much put Williams’ training operation on the map, with Uttoxeter’s Midlands Grand National a Listed contest and the Welsh Grand National a valuable Grade Three prize.
Williams hopes those victories and a good run at Aintree will aid the rise of the yard – and whatever the outcome, he will always remain grateful to his stable star for providing such success at a relatively early stage in his training career.
“He’s brilliant – it’s hard to explain really,” he said.
“Certain horses do that to you, don’t they?
“Hopefully in years to come we’ll be a bigger yard, and it comes down to horses like him. We’ll be in a stronger position, because the horse did that for us.”
The Welsh incarnation of the Grand National was a highlight for Williams, as it is for many a Welsh jockey, owner and trainer, but Aintree’s marathon showpiece ranks even higher on his list of career aspirations.
“It has to be at the top,” he said.
“The Welsh National was a great day, and only one or two races could ever top that. The Grand National is one of those races.”