Williams retains faith in Potters Corner

Potters Corner is recovering from his Grand National exertions – and may well be back at Aintree for the Becher Chase next season.

Christian Williams reports his popular stayer slightly “stiff and sore” after eventually pulling up behind Minella Times at Aintree on Saturday, but otherwise none the worse for his experience.

The Glamorgan trainer has big plans for a clutch of other stable stars in what remains of this season – with Kitty’s Light and Cap Du Nord both on course for this month’s bet365 Gold Cup Handicap Chase at Sandown.

Potters Corner, however, has earned a rest. Asked how his Welsh and Midlands National winner is faring after his latest marathon attempt, Williams said: “He’s not too bad. He’s a little bit stiff and sore, but he’s okay.

“We’ll probably leave him now for the season and aim him for the cross-country race (at Cheltenham) and then maybe go back for the Becher Chase.

“The Welsh National-type horses, perhaps that type of race (Grand National) doesn’t suit them (these days).

“Bottomless ground at Chepstow, then Aintree on quicker ground, it’s a different test.”

He went on: “We’ll put him away now. He hasn’t got masses of mileage – I think he’s only run four times in the last two years.

“We’ve picked out races for him a little bit, so we hope there’s a little bit left in him.

“But he’s been such a great horse for the yard and the owners – we’ll run him in the cross-country, then the Becher, and take a view from there what route we go down, whether to carry on running or we should retire him.”

Kitty’s Light is six years Potters Corner’s junior – and a remarkable example of how horses can defy expectations.

Williams bought the Flat-bred cheaply, has seen him win four of six chases over ever increasing distances in his first season over fences – and is ready to set him his most exacting test yet in Sandown’s big handicap.

He said: “We’re looking forward to Kitty – we’ve had the Sandown race in the back of our mind since he finished third in the Badger Beer (at Wincanton) last year.

“That’s been his main aim for a long time, so it’s all systems go.

“We popped the tongue tie on him at Kelso, and found a little bit of improvement with that as well.

“He’ll be relatively fresh going into the race, and we hope the trip will suit him.

“We think the track, with the nice uphill finish, will suit him.”

Kitty’s Light and Jack Tudor (right) make ground en route to victory at Warwick
Kitty’s Light and Jack Tudor (right) make ground en route to victory at Warwick (David Davies/PA)

Kitty’s Light will be joined by Cap Du Nord, winner of a Newbury handicap and third in the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster this season.

“Cap Du Nord will go for Sandown as well,” added Williams.

“He’s got a good profile, just had a blip last time when he pulled up over hurdles – like a lot of those chasers too.

“With his profile before that, we’ll be looking forward to running him.

“He’ll be no back number. We hope he’ll turn into one of those good staying chasers as well.”

Williams on Ayr weather watch for Five Star Getaway

Christian Williams is all set to head to Ayr with the fast-improving Five Star Getaway – as long as there is some cut in the ground at the weekend.

The Glamorgan trainer has given Five Star Getaway two options on Sunday, including the Grade Two Jordan Electrics Ltd Future Champion Novices’ Chase.

But the former point-to-pointer is more likely to go up in trip to three miles for the first time under rules in the CPMS Novices’ Champion Handicap Chase as he bids to extend his winning sequence over fences to four.

Five Star Getaway is a rapidly improving novice chaser
Five Star Getaway is a rapidly improving novice chaser (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Five Star Getaway has improved more than 40lb in the space of a month as two-and-a-half-mile victories at Wincanton, Sandown and Haydock have put him on the verge of graded class.

Williams said: “We thought we’d just put him in the Grade Two as an option – but the main aim will be the novice handicap, if we have a drop of rain.

“The ground would need to be as it is now, or a little bit easier, for the owner to decide to run.”

Whatever the immediate future holds for Five Star Getaway, Williams already has high hopes the lightly-raced seven-year-old can progress further next season.

“We’re hoping he’s going to be a staying chaser for next season,” he said.

“It’s not the end of the world if he doesn’t have another run this year. But he’s in good form, and if the ground is right, it’s good prize money and we’ll try to support the meeting with a nice horse if we can.

“He’s had plenty of runs in the space of four or five weeks, but he seems in great form at home and carries his condition well.

“He’s a horse we get excited about every time we run him.

“He’s just a very good physical specimen, as well as being a good racehorse – so we’re hoping he’ll keep progressing, and we’ll be excited going into next season as well.”

Potters Corner eyes real Grand National gold

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.

Williams and jockey Jack Tudor after their success in the Welsh Grand National
Williams and jockey Jack Tudor after their success in the Welsh Grand National (David Davies/PA)

“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.

Potters Corner on the way to the start in the Midlands Grand National
Potters Corner on the way to the start in the Midlands Grand National (Clint Hughes/PA)

“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's part-owner Jonathan Davies congratulates Jack Tudor after his victory in the Welsh Grand National
Potters Corner’s part-owner Jonathan Davies congratulates Jack Tudor after his victory in the Welsh Grand National (David Davies/PA)

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.”

New owners targeting high-profile start with National duo

A new racing club is seeking a dream start with two runners in the Randox Grand National on Saturday week.

RacehorseClub offers micro-shares to its members – with the aim of attracting a new audience to the industry – and as two of their three purchases are due to run at Aintree, they could exceed all expectations.

The Christian Williams-trained Potters Corner, winner of the Welsh National in 2019, and Balko Des Flos, a former winner of the Ryanair Chase, will be sporting the club’s distinctive multi-coloured silks.

RacehorseClub is the brainchild of Max Pimlott, who works for the International Racing Bureau and said: “The whole idea is to get more people involved in horseracing and give them a toe in the water of what racehorse ownership is all about.

Christian Williams (left) stands with Potters Corner and Ed Chamberlin, an ambassador of the club
Christian Williams (left) stands with Potters Corner and Ed Chamberlin, an ambassador of the club (Nigel Kirby)

“We wanted to focus on the quality of horses. Obviously there are lots of other good syndicates out there, but we wanted to take it to another level to give the opportunity to as many people as we can to be part of a top-class racehorse.

“The first three horses include a Welsh National winner, a Royal Ascot winner (The Lir Jet) and a Cheltenham Festival winner, and we’ll also be going to the Craven breeze-ups.

“Potters Corner costs £75 for 0.002 per cent share. We’ve bought a percentage of him from All Stars Racing, who have owned him from the start along with Jonathan Davies, who won the Six Nations with Wales.

“Only a small part of that fee is for the actual horse – the rest comprises the membership, a welcome pack which includes plenty of goodies, but also you get the whole experience of trainer videos etc.

“Looking forward, we envisage having huge hospitality tents at Cheltenham, for example, so our members get a day on us at Cheltenham – that’s the vision we have going forward.

Potters Corner sporting his new rug
Potters Corner sporting his new rug (Nigel Kirby)

“Also we want to give a bit back. We’re in partnerships with the Injured Jockeys’ Fund, Racing Welfare, Retraining of Racehorses and Racing For School.”

Balko Des Flos has been priced at £80 per share, while the Michael Bell-trained The Lir Jet, who ran at the Breeders’ Cup last year, is £84.

Williams is pleased with how the last couple of weeks have gone for Potters Corner, given he was forced to miss Cheltenham with an overreach.

“Nothing phases him. If he wasn’t quiet at home, we’d be worrying. He seems in good form and has been a great horse for the yard,” he said.

“He had a little knock, an overreach, which can be nasty sometimes, and there was a bit of bruising – that’s the reason he missed Cheltenham – and he obviously would have bumped into a prime Tiger Roll that day, so perhaps it wasn’t a bad thing. It’s only a short time to Aintree, so we’re trying to look at it as a positive.

“The horses are flying, the yard’s flying, Jack’s (Tudor) riding plenty of winners, so we’re confident going there.”

He added: “RacehorseClub is a brilliant idea – it’s great for racing fans and fans outside of racing to get involved at a small price in one of the biggest sporting events of the year.

“It makes everything affordable. It doesn’t matter what share you own, if you’re sat at home and you can cheer your horse on, jumping up and down in the lounge, you don’t get a feeling like it.

“It would be great if Potters turns in and is going well in the Grand National.”

Balko Des Flos unseated Rachael Blackmore in the Glenfarclas Chase at Cheltenham, but trainer Henry de Bromhead retains plenty of faith.

He said: “Balko Des Flos is in great form, and his Grand National prep is going as planned.

Rachael Blackmore aboard Balko Des Flos at Cheltenham
Rachael Blackmore aboard Balko Des Flos at Cheltenham (David Davies/PA)

“He schooled this morning – we fixed our fences to replicate Aintree a bit. He was going really well at Cheltenham until he unseated Rachael at the wedges, but she said he was really enjoying it.

“I’m not sure who will ride him yet – because if Minella Times runs, Rachael might ride him. We also have Aidan Coleman, so he might ride what Rachael doesn’t.”

On the RacehorseClub, he added: “We have plenty of syndicates in the yard, including the Champion Chase winner Put The Kettle On among others.

“I think it’s a great idea – a one-off fee – it’s fantastic value for what you are getting.

“I am delighted to be working with such an exciting new venture, which offers such a great opportunity.”

Michael Bell, trainer of The Lir Jet, said: “I’m sure it will be a great success. The Lir Jet was one of last year’s top two-year-olds and looks an exciting prospect for this year.

“All being well, we will start him off in the Free Handicap at Newmarket’s Craven Meeting in a couple of weeks’ time – and then plans for the rest of the season will unfold thereafter.”

Williams looking forward to Cheltenham with Potters Corner

Christian Williams is happy to forgive Potters Corner a poor run over hurdles and is keen to have a crack at Tiger Roll and Easysland in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase at Cheltenham.

In winning the Welsh National last season the 11-year-old sparked wild celebrations as a home winner of the great race – and he also had the unusual honour of ‘winning’ the Virtual Grand National when last year’s event was cancelled due to the pandemic.

This season has all been built around a trip to Aintree via Cheltenham in March, but after a good first run over the cross-country course in November, things have not gone quite according to plan.

Christian Williams (right) with Jack Tudor and connections of Potters Corner following his Welsh National win
Christian Williams (right) with Jack Tudor and connections of Potters Corner following his Welsh National win (David Davies/PA)

He had to miss gaining further experience at Cheltenham in December and has run over hurdles the last twice – most recently at Exeter when he was pulled up.

“I’ve just put a line through it,” said Williams.

“The ground was terrible. He’s gone on soft before but that was something else, it was a hurdle race and I’m happy to just forget about it.

“We scoped him before he went and it was clean and took a blood test when he got back which was spotless.

“I’ve never seen him look as well as he does now and we took him to school at Cheltenham the other day and he’s never schooled as well so I’m hoping it’s just a blip.

“I can’t really be bullish given what happened at Exeter, but you can also pick holes in Tiger Roll and Easysland.

“We’re looking forward to it, we’ve got the horse where we want him. I would have preferred another race over the fences, but we missed December with a dirty scope. We got a school into him though and I’m very pleased.”

Full steam ahead for Cap Du Nord and Kempton

It is “all systems go” for Cap Du Nord ahead of the Close Brothers Handicap Chase at Kempton on Saturday.

A winner at Newbury earlier this season, the eight-year-old has subsequently chased home possible Gold Cup contender Royale Pagaille at Kempton over Christmas and then finished a creditable third in the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster.

Trainer Christian Williams feels conditions back at Kempton will suit him much better this weekend and he is excited to be running in a major handicap with a favourite’s chance.

“It’s all systems go and we’re excited. Better ground could be the key to him, we’ll see this weekend,” said Williams.

“We took him to Cheltenham (on Monday) with Potters Corner for a school over the cross-country fences and he went well. It will be a quiet week now before Kempton.”

Reflecting on his Doncaster effort in soft ground, Williams said: “We probably could have gone for an easier race somewhere, but we wanted to be involved in a real nice race.

“We’re up to 142 now so we’ve got to go for the nice races, but it’s great to be involved in them. I could probably find a race midweek that he could go and win, but we want to be involved on the big days as it helps raise the profile of the yard.

“It’s good experience for Jack (Tudor) to be riding in these types of races.”

Cross-country plan for Potters Corner before National

Potters Corner is to have the Glenfarclas Chase over the cross-country fences at the Cheltenham Festival as his prep race for the Randox Health Grand National.

Trainer Christian Williams reports the 11-year-old, winner of the Midlands and Welsh Grand Nationals, to be in good form following his run over hurdles in a Pertemps qualifier at Warwick this month.

“Warwick would be a sharp-enough track for him, and he’s got a career-high mark over hurdles and is an 11-year-old, so he probably had it all to do,” said the Bridgend trainer.

“We were very pleased. He ran well until turning in. It was a nice positive run.

“He’ll go straight to the cross-country race at Cheltenham, I’d have thought.

“That will be his prep for the National.”

Potters Corner tackled the cross-country course at Cheltenham for the first time in November, finishing third to Kingswell Theatre.

Cap Du Nord seeking to book National ticket with Sky Bet success

Christian Williams is hoping Cap Du Nord can put himself in the picture for the Randox Health Grand National with a big run in the Sky Bet Handicap Chase at Doncaster on Saturday.

All eyes will be on Cap Du Nord, after 18 horses stood their ground at the the five-day confirmation stage, following Royale Pagaille’s impressive victory in the Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock at the weekend.

The eight-year-old was only beaten three and a quarter lengths by Royale Pagaille at Kempton over Christmas, and Williams is pleased the form of that race has worked out so well.

“It was nice to see Royale Pagaille do what he did on Saturday,” he said.

“The third (Double Shuffle) has won since and the seventh, The Kings Writ, ran very well to finish second in the Somerset National. It’s great.

“We’ll see what the handicapper does (on Tuesday), but it won’t affect Saturday’s race at all. The weights are already out.

“We’re looking forward to Saturday and we’re thinking he could be really suited to the Grand National.

“We’ll try to sneak into that race if we can. He’s rated 139 today (Monday). He might go up again for Royale Pagaille winning. You want to be on the 144 mark maybe to get into the Grand National. It would be great to get him in.”

Canelo, winner of the Rowland Meyrick Handicap Chase at Wetherby and runner-up to Cap Du Nord at Newbury in Newbury, could bid to give trainer Alan King a third success in the Sky Bet.

Others in the mix include Ladbrokes Trophy runner-up Aye Right for Harriet Graham, Colin Tizzard’s Ascot Silver Cup scorer Mister Malarky and the Sandy Thomson-trained Yorkhill, who bounced back to form with a 66-1 success in the Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle.

Kim Bailey’s dual course and distance winner Rocky’s Treasure and Paul Nicholls’ Give Me A Copper are among other possibles, while the weights are headed by Brian Ellison’s stable stalwart Definitly Red.

The star attraction on the card is set to be the Nicky Henderson-trained Shishkin, who tops 12 entries for the Lightning Novices’ Chase.

Shishkin could bid to maintain his unbeaten record over fences in the Lightning Novices' Chase
Shishkin could bid to maintain his unbeaten record over fences in the Lightning Novices’ Chase (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Last season’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle victor has won both his starts over fences in tremendous style and is already odds-on for the Arkle Trophy at the Cheltenham Festival.

The Jennie Candlish-trained Cheddleton, Phil Kirby’s Whoshotthesheriff and the Nicholls duo of Fast Buck and Tamaroc Du Mathan are among the potential opposition.

Henderson has Newbury winner Floressa and Marie’s Rock in the Grade Two Yorkshire Rose Mares’ Hurdle, for which there are 11 entries.

Henderson could send Emir Sacree for the other Grade Two on the card, the Albert Bartlett River Don Novices’ Hurdle.

The French import made a winning debut for the Seven Barrows trainer at Ascot last month on his first start for 635 days.

There are several promising types among the 14 entries, including the Dan Skelton-trained Ashtown Lad, Bobhopeornohope from the Bailey stable, and Nicholls’ Flash Collonges.

Williams sets out Sky Bet Chase aim for Cap Du Nord

Cap Du Nord is on target to head for Doncaster’s Sky Bet Chase at the end of this month.

Christian Williams’ improving eight-year-old was a good winner at Newbury on his penultimate outing, before having to settle for second behind the impressive Royal Pagaille at Kempton over Christmas at Kempton.

He finished 19 lengths clear of the third horse, but had no answer to Venetia Williams’ winner – who has since been entered for the Cheltenham Gold Cup following a 14lb rise in the weights.

Cap Du Nord went up 4lb, and Williams is hoping he runs well enough at Doncaster on January 30 to get himself high enough up the weights for a run in the Grand National.

“Doncaster was the aim before Kempton really – we just didn’t want to wait eight weeks between Newbury and Doncaster,” said Williams.

“He’s quite a sturdy horse so eight weeks would have been too long to wait.

“When I was riding myself I rode Big Fella Thanks in the Kempton race – he unseated me on the second circuit when I felt we’d nearly have won and then we went to Doncaster and won, so I always had that in the back of my mind.

“Our horse is fairly adaptable regards the ground. We thought he wanted better ground after Newbury, but I think he’s fine on most because he’s run well on very bad ground before. I just think he’s more the finished article now.

“He could have bumped into a 160-horse at Kempton. He won very well, but we made a bit of a race of it, and the pair were miles clear.

“We bought Cap Du Nord off a good friend of mine, and he’s always threatened to be a really good horse. Before now, while we’d had some fun, he was still lowly rated. He’s finally shown this year he might be a decent one, which is nice because he’s for a good, supportive owner (Ian Marmion).”

Should Doncaster go to plan, Williams may be adding another string to his Aintree bow along with last season’s Welsh National hero Potters Corner.

“He’s rated 137 now. If he goes and wins this he could be a proper National horse, and that would give Jack (Tudor, jockey) something to think about with Potters Corner as well,” added Williams.

“I think about 144 almost guarantees a run at Aintree, so you think he’d go up 7lb if he wins at Doncaster.”

Williams relaxed about possibility of heading straight to Festival with Potters Corner

Christian Williams Williams would have no qualms about sending Potters Corner to the Cheltenham Festival without another run.

Last season’s Welsh National winner was due to run in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase on Friday, having finished third over the unique fences last month.

However, Williams was forced to rule him out of the race with a dirty scope and while it is not certain, he could wait until March to run his stable star again – with the Grand National in April his main aim.

“We’ll just look at the cross-country in March and the Grand National now,” said Williams.

“If he’d won on Friday he’d probably have had 10lb more to carry in the Grand National anyway.

“The way he jumped the fences in November I wouldn’t have thought he’d have needed another run over them before March – I was delighted with him from halfway.

Victory for Potters Corner sparked joyous scenes at Chepstow
Victory for Potters Corner sparked joyous scenes at Chepstow (David Davies/PA)

“Cheltenham are good to us, we gave him a little school over them the other day, which was when we found the dirty scope. We’ll probably do the same in March before the Festival.

“I don’t want to say he definitely won’t run again before March, but it wouldn’t be the end of the world if he didn’t as he could even go to Punchestown too, so there’s plenty of races at that time of year.”

He added: “It would have been nice for his owners to run, but I’m sure they won’t lose any sleep.

“What with Easysland out as well it’s unfortunate for Cheltenham as it looked a really classy race at the five-day stage.

“We take Cap Du Nord to school over the fences with him and he absolutely loves it. He might be one further down the line for these races.”

Potters Corner to miss Chepstow in favour of cross country campaign

Christian Williams has decided to take the Tiger Roll route to Aintree with Potters Corner, and will skip a defence of this month’s Welsh Grand National in favour of the cross country chases at Cheltenham.

Potters Corner was a famous home winner at Chepstow last year, owned and trained by proud Welshmen, so the decision to stay away this time must have been a tough one – but Williams is adamant he is doing the best thing by the 10-year-old.

Potters Corner finished third on his first run over Cheltenham’s cross country course last month, and is set to return next week and then again at the Festival in March.

“I know the horse well and I know how long it took him to recover last year,” said Williams.

“I told the owners last year he only had a certain amount of those National-type races left in him – and with the cross-country races, they are constantly on the turn and it’s not the same endurance.

“The ground is never too soft either, because they only race on it three times a year, (so) it doesn’t get opened up.

“It’s completely different – after he ran in the cross country last month, he could probably have run somewhere else the next day. But after the Welsh National, we were goosed for months before he was back to himself.

“We think he could win the Welsh National again this year, but I put it to the owners that we could go to Cheltenham with a realistic chance and still have him for Aintree – and they were brilliant about it.

“We think he’s got a good chance at Aintree – it will suit him, and we also think he deserves to go to the Festival with a chance.

“It was his first time over the fences the other day, so we rode him conservatively but we were delighted how he took to it. We’ll probably ride him further forwards next time and further forwards again in March – and he always comes on for a run.”

Williams will also scratch his other Welsh National entry, four-year-old Kitty’s Light – who was placed in the Badger Beers Trophy last time out.

He added: “Kitty’s Light will be scratched as well. He’s only four, so we might look at the Rowland Meyrick with him, and his main aim will either be the Bet365 Gold Cup or even the Scottish National – we’ll work backwards from there.”

The trainer saddled a good winner at Newbury on Saturday in Cap Du Nord, and this time next year Chepstow could be on his agenda.

“Cap Du Nord might just be a staying chaser in time,” he said.

“He’s been a great horse for us. I think he’s the type who copes better in better races. We thought he was better than his rating, and he’s in a better place this year.

“He could be a Scottish National type. I don’t want to say he doesn’t go on soft yet, but he broke the track record at Newbury.

“He’ll probably go to Kempton on December 27 for a 0-140 – and then I’d have thought the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster, which I won as a jockey on Big Fella Thanks, would be the race for him.”

Cross country option for Potters Corner

Potters Corner could kick off his campaign in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase at Cheltenham next week.

The 10-year-old gave Christian Williams the biggest success of his training career so far when lifting the Welsh Grand National at Chepstow last Christmas, with his owners famously including Welsh rugby star Jonathan Davies.

Potters Corner was then due to head to the Grand National at Aintree, which was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but he did still claim a victory of sorts because he came home first in a virtual edition of the great race, which raised £2.6million for NHS charities.

Williams took his stable star to school over Cheltenham’s cross country course on Wednesday and could now give him an entry in next Friday’s three-mile-six-furlong event, the first of three such heats run at the track over the season.

He said: “He’s in good form, and we just thought the cross country route might give him a few more options, this season and next.

“Those staying chases are quite specialist, and you don’t want to be running in them every other week, so the other options for him are hurdles or those cross country races.

“He schooled very well – he seemed to enjoy it and he will probably get an entry at Cheltenham next Friday. I don’t think you go into those races first time thinking you’ll win – I don’t know how much experience you need.

“It might give him a bit more longevity, and if he’s badly handicapped you can have a look at the cross country route.”

Potters Corner also won the Midlands National in 2019
Potters Corner also won the Midlands National in 2019 (Clint Hughes/PA)

Dual Grand National winner Tiger Roll won the cross country event at the Cheltenham Festival before each of his Aintree wins.

Williams added: “It has worked out well for Tiger Roll – he’s a special horse, but so is Potters Corner.”

The Glamorgan trainer confirmed a delayed date with destiny in the Grand National is the top priority this term, although an exact course to Aintree in April has yet to be mapped.

“Aintree is the main aim this year,” added Williams.

“Obviously he won the Welsh National last year – but whether we want to run there again or look to Aintree, we’ll have to see what the owners want to do.”

Trainers full of praise for Warwick’s crowd pilot

Winning trainers Kayley Woollacott and Christian Williams voiced resounding endorsements of Warwick’s pilot crowd meeting.

Woollacott had most to smile about with a big-priced double to bookend Monday’s eight-race card – while Williams sent out a promising winner and a second from his four runners.

Both were full of praise too, though, for on-course arrangements as the Government-backed trial event welcomed back annual members and hospitality guests among a crowd approaching 500.

Since racing resumed on June 1 following the coronavirus shutdown in mid-March, only Doncaster has been able to allow racegoers in – but that just lasted one day after the local public health authority pulled the plug due to an increase in Covid-19 cases.

As Newmarket plans to stage a three-day trial at its Cambridgeshire meeting this week, Williams made it clear he has been highly-encouraged so far.

“It was brilliant – I think everything has been run so well,” said the Glamorgan trainer.

“I think we’ve advertised ourselves well, and it was just great to come in today and see the crowd here.

“It’s our sport, and it’s great to see people back at the races.”

Government concern about a resurgence of infection nationwide is evident – but Williams is convinced at least that racing is doing everything possible to provide a safe environment.

“I’m not sure which way things are going to go, with us maybe going into a second wave a little bit now,” he added.

“But I hope positives can come out of today. Racecourses, and the sport as a whole, are showing that things can be done in a proper way.

“Every time you go racing, it is impressive the way things are done – one-way systems, it’s all very professionally done.”

A small gathering of racegoers watch the action at Warwick
A small gathering of racegoers watch the action at Warwick (David Davies/PA)

Woollacott, who began the card with a 66-1 success thanks to Especially So in the Wigley Group Novices’ Hurdle, echoed Williams’ words.

“It’s great to have some owners here cheering them in and a bit of a crowd as well,” she said.

“It’s a long way off where we want to be – but at least we’re racing, and there’s a bit of an atmosphere here today.”

Especially So kickstarted the first double of the Devon trainer’s career, scoring by a neck under Tom Scudamore.

Woollacott said: “I thought she was overpriced. I’m not saying I thought she’d win, but we did tell syndicate members she was a decent each-way bet.

“The step up in trip has helped her, and I’d imagine we’ll be looking at handicaps now.”

Tipalong Tyler in the clear at Warwick
Tipalong Tyler in the clear at Warwick (David Davies/PA)

She later landed the concluding Get Daily Tips At Handicap Hurdle, with 25-1 chance Tipalong Tyler pulling 11 lengths clear in the hands of 7lb claimer Josh Newman.

“She just wants a trip, bless her – she’s not very quick,” Woollacott added.

“The cheek-pieces have probably helped her, and the 7lb claim has helped as well.

“It’s my first double, which is great. We don’t often have two runners on the same day, never mind two winners.”

Williams’ yard favourite Cottonvale had to settle for second behind Tipalong Tyler.

But he had struck earlier with Kitty’s Light (3-1 joint-favourite) as jockey Jack Tudor earned the plaudits in the Join Racing TV Now Novices’ Handicap Chase.

The saddle slipped before the home turn, yet Tudor somehow managed to conjure a late charge from his mount to prevail by a length and three-quarters, before ending up on the turf not long after the line.

Williams was thankful to Tudor, but unsurprised at the skill shown by the rider who won last season’s Welsh Grand National for him on Potters Corner.

At the suggestion Tudor had performed a minor miracle, he said: “Yes – but we’ve known how good he is for a while, so it’s just another day in the office for him really!

“He’s an exceptional talent, a very good rider.”

Kitty’s Light and Jack Tudor (right) on their way to victory
Kitty’s Light and Jack Tudor (right) on their way to victory (David Davies/PA)

Williams was grateful that fortune was on his side too.

He added: “We’re lucky there was no weight cloth on the saddle – because it looks like it would have gone. But everything stayed intact.

“He’s just a bit of a lean horse, only a four-year-old and hasn’t really filled into his frame yet.

“I should have run him in a breastplate rather than breastgirth, and it looks like the saddle just slipped and then carried on slipping.”

Racecourse manager Andre Klein, meanwhile, was pleased with how the day unfolded.

He said: “I’d like to thank everyone who joined us today for adhering to all the safety guidelines in place and helping us create a safe environment for a fantastic day’s racing.

“It’s been a challenging few weeks in the preparation stages, but we’re delighted that our annual members, hospitality guests and owners could be on course to enjoy it with us – and we’re really pleased with everyone’s feedback.

“We’ve learnt a lot in the process, and I am looking forward to being able to share those learnings with other courses to help the sport prepare for whenever we can safely welcome crowds back to our venues on a more regular basis.

“It is really important for us as a small racecourse to be able to showcase that we can offer a safe, and socially-distanced raceday while adhering to all the strict guidelines in place.

“Smaller racecourses are the foundation of the sport, particularly those hosting regular midweek fixtures, and I can’t thank my team enough for their efforts over the past few days and weeks.”