Patrick Mullins delighted with supersub opportunity on Burrows Saint

One man’s loss can be another’s gain – and that is certainly true in the case of Patrick Mullins, who has come in for the plum spare ride on Burrows Saint in the Randox Grand National.

Mullins replaces Irish champion jockey Paul Townend, who picked up a foot injury at Fairyhouse last weekend which also saw him miss Monday’s Irish Grand National.

In the immediate aftermath, Willie Mullins was in no rush to rule Townend out of Aintree – but as each declaration stage passed for Thursday’s and Friday’s cards, hopes faded he would make it back in time.

Instead, the champion trainer has called on his son – who has ridden more winners as an amateur in Ireland than anyone else and if not for his battle with the scales would surely be a professional.

Looking forward to Saturday, Mullins said: “It’s fantastic to pick up the spin on him.

“Obviously Paul hasn’t recovered from the fall he had in Fairyhouse.

Burrows Saint won the Irish National two years ago
Burrows Saint won the Irish National two years ago (PA Wire)

“The weight (10st 13lb) is quite light for me, but it’s just enough.

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“He’s in great form at home. I got a sit on him in Haydock this (Thursday) morning – and he ticks a lot of the boxes.

“He’s the right age as an eight-year-old; he has the right kind of weight and he’s progressive, with only nine runs over fences.

“I’m really excited to be sitting on him.”

With the doubt over Townend and his weight issue, it was a case of Burrows Saint or nothing for Mullins – but he was never counting his chickens, especially after amateurs were ruled out of last month’s Cheltenham Festival because of coronavirus restrictions.

“I’ve lived with Willie long enough to know not to ask any questions and to just wait until declarations,” he said.

“It was in the back of my head that I might get the ride. I saw the weight was doable, and I was watching it from then and got confirmation this morning.

“I did not expect to be able to ride a horse with a live chance in the Grand National. Ever since I was seven or eight and I read a book on the history of the Grand National, this was the race.

“It was disappointing not to be at Cheltenham. As it turned out, I didn’t miss a winner, which made it slightly easier.

“To get a ride in the National more than makes up for that, definitely.

“Some people like the Gold Cup, but this was always the race I wanted to have a crack at – it does not get any better than this.”

No amateur has won the National since Marcus Armytage on Mr Frisk in 1990, but Burrows Saint is second-favourite with some bookmakers based on the fact he won the Irish Grand National two years ago.

“In the National, game plans can go out of the window pretty quickly, but in the Irish National Ruby (Walsh) rode him fairly handy and with a bit of daylight. After that, we’ll see where Lady Luck takes you,” said Mullins.

“I was second on a horse called Boxer George in the Foxhunters (in 2011). That’s the closest I’ve come to a winner over the fences.”

Secret Reprieve missed the cut by two
Secret Reprieve missed the cut by two (David Davies/PA)

Bristol De Mai topped the weights after the final 48-hour stage, which left Evan Williams’ Welsh National winner Secret Reprieve as only second reserve.

“We’ve had a lot worse news regarding horses – we knew there was a c Read more

Bristol De Mai tops Grand National field – but Secret Reprieve set to miss out

Bristol De Mai heads a maximum field of 40 in the Randox Grand National – but the strongly-fancied Secret Reprieve is only second reserve and set to miss out as a result.

Trained by Evan Williams, Secret Reprieve won the Welsh National in December and has been kept fresh in the hope of a crack at the world’s greatest steeplechase on Saturday.

However, it had been touch and go whether he would make the cut or not and as only The Storyteller was not declared at the 48-hour stage, Secret Reprieve’s connections are resigned to their fate.

Secret Reprieve is only second reserve for the Randox Grand National
Secret Reprieve is only second reserve for the Randox Grand National (David Davies/PA)

Should there be any non-runners before 1pm on Friday, the reserve system will come into play – but Williams was philosophical about Secret Reprieve not making the top 40 and is already looking forward to next season with the lightly-raced seven-year-old.

“We’ve had a lot worse news regarding horses, we knew there was a chance that would happen so there’s no point worrying about things we can’t control,” the Llancarfan trainer told Sky Sports Racing.

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“He’s safe and sound and that’s always the main thing. He’ll go home with Mr and Mrs Rucker (owners) now and we’ll think about next year.

“We took a punt about getting in the National and it’s not going to work out. That’s the way it is.

“The great thing about missing out on getting into the National is they dropped him 2lb for anywhere we want to go now next year. Every cloud has a silver lining.

“I’m certainly not worried. He’s a young horse, fingers crossed he’ll have his day again in the sun somewhere down the line.

“He’s gone and won a Welsh National. It was only his sixth start over fences. He’s had a mighty season. He can have a good field of grass now and we can look forward to next year with him.”

Cloth Cap is the red-hot favourite for the Grand National
Cloth Cap is the red-hot favourite for the Grand National (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Dan Skelton’s Blaklion was the beneficiary of of The Storyteller’s no-show and creeps in as number 40. The first reserve is John McConnell’s Some Neck, with Kauto Riko third reserve and Fagan the fourth and final one.

Ante-post favourite Cloth Cap will aim to give Trever Hemmings a record fourth win in the race following the successes of Hedgehunter, Ballabriggs and Many Clouds – and his trainer Jonjo O’Neill is chasing his second National, having won with Don’t Push It.

After their domination at Cheltenham, the Irish battalion bring a strong team in which Ted Walsh’s Any Second Now is well touted.

Rachael Blackmore enjoyed a dream Festival and aims to top an incredible year on Henry de Bromhead’s Minella Times. The Gold Cup-winning stable is also responsible for Chris’s Dream and Balko Des Flos.

Burrows Saint (left) will be ridden by Patrick Mullins
Burrows Saint (left) will be ridden by Patrick Mullins (PA)

Willie Mullins is without the services of Paul Townend, who suffered an injury at Fairyhouse earlier this week. He is replaced on Burrows Saint by Patrick Mullins.

Danny Mullins rides Acapella Bourgeois, and Brian Hayes is on Class Conti – with Sean O’Keeffe on Cabaret Queen.

Denis O’Regan comes in for the ride on Tony Martin’s Anibale Fly, who has run well in the race twice before and has also twice been placed in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Leading amateur Jamie Codd rides Milan Native, with Sean Flanagan on Tout Est Permis.

James Bowen called up for Secret Reprieve

James Bowen is delighted to have picked up the spare ride on Secret Reprieve in the Randox Grand National.

Evan Williams called up the 20-year-old after it was confirmed regular rider Adam Wedge will remain sidelined by injury next week.

Secret Reprieve announced his potential as a top staying chaser with victory in this season’s Welsh National – the latest edition of a race Bowen also won in January 2018, on Raz De Maree.

“I only got the phone call last night,” he said.

“Evan rang me and asked if I could do the weight (10st 1lb). There were butterflies in my stomach when I got the phone call.

“It’s very exciting and a massive confidence booster that both the owners and trainer want you to ride a horse like that in a race like this.

“I’m very much looking forward to it – and I must thank William and Angela Rucker (owners) for giving me the ride.”

Bowen is hoping for a new personal best in the great race.

He added: “This will be my third (National) ride – I pulled up on Shantou Flyer in 2018 and finished ninth on Outlander in 2019. They were both outsiders, so he is definitely my best chance of winning it – and this is probably his year to have a go.

“Everyone who wins the Grand National is known as a Grand National-winning jockey afterwards.

“It would not just make my year – it would make my life.”

Secret Reprieve team eyeing Grand National outing

Connections have their fingers crossed Secret Reprieve makes the cut for the Randox Grand National after they confirmed they are aiming him at the world’s greatest steeplechase at Aintree on Saturday week.

It was only at the weekend trainer Evan Williams and owners William and Angela Rucker made the decision to go for the Liverpool showpiece.

However, the Coral Welsh Grand National hero needs seven horses to come out to make the maximum 40-strong field.

“I have always been a believer in those big handicaps what will be, will be. If those horses come out that would be fantastic and if they don’t, it wasn’t meant to be,” Williams told Nick Luck’s podcast.

“I can’t pretend the plan was we’d end up in the Grand National, because it wasn’t. We only had the green light on Saturday that was what we would do.”

“He’s in great form and we wouldn’t even be thinking about the race if he wasn’t.

“The reality was we had looked at Cheltenham and I thought that a couple more weeks would be of benefit to us. It was only that I had not sat down with Mr and Mrs Rucker until Saturday.

“He’s a grand horse. If I have a weakness then it is buying horses that get slower as they get older. You would say he’s old fashioned, but that is the horse I buy as a youngster and the type of horse I love dealing with.”

Secret Reprieve’s regular rider Adam Wedge is in a race of his own to be fit in time for Aintree after he suffered a back injury in a fall at Newbury in early March.

Williams said: “He sees the main man about his scan and everything tomorrow. That will be D-Day to some extent because we want to get him back riding for every day next week really.

“I would say tomorrow is a big day for him.”

Secret Reprieve is generally a 14-1 chance for the Grand National.

Wedge working towards return to saddle in time for Aintree

Adam Wedge is keeping his fingers crossed as he aims for a potential injury comeback aboard Secret Reprieve in the Randox Grand National.

Wedge was triumphant on the Evan Williams-trained seven-year-old in the Welsh Grand National at Chepstow in January, triumphing by three lengths despite his girth snapping during the race and his saddle slipping considerably.

The victory came after Wedge demonstrated his physical and mental durability when taking the ride on the horse following two heavy falls earlier on the same card.

Adam Wedge aboard Secret Reprieve in the Coral Welsh Grand National
Adam Wedge aboard Secret Reprieve in the Coral Welsh Grand National (David Davies/PA)

Wedge’s toughness was put to the test again when he parted company with Hoi Polloi in a novice hurdle at Newbury in March, after which he gathered himself off the floor and returned to action for four rides the following afternoon back at the same track.

A subsequent scan revealed a fracture to his T12 vertebra, however, forcing him to take a break from riding which would include forfeiting his rides at the Cheltenham Festival.

Since the fracture was discovered, Wedge has begun the rehabilitation process – using the Injury Jockeys Fund facility in Lambourn, Oaksey House, and also enduring sessions in an ice chamber to aid his recovery.

“I’m getting there slowly,” he said.

“I’m getting into Oaksey House and getting on well with all of the team there and the therapy.

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“Fingers crossed, as long as an X-ray looks good in a couple of weeks’ time, I’ll be working towards being back for Aintree.”

Although the aim is to return to the saddle for the Grand National, Wedge is aware that the nature of the injury means he cannot rush his recovery.

“It’s very much the plan, but I’ve got to go with what the specialists say,” he added.

“It’s a back injury at the end of the day – it’s not a collar bone or anything like that, (so) everything’s got to be 110 per cent right with it.”

Glamorgan-based Williams had a number of Cheltenham Festival runners which Wedge would have ordinarily partnered, the most prolific being Christmas Hurdle winner Silver Streak – who finished sixth behind Honeysuckle in the Unibet Champion Hurdle.

Another likely partner would have been Rebecca Curtis’ Lisnagar Oscar, aboard whom Wedge triumphed in last year’s Stayers’ Hurdle.

Adam Wedge after winning the Stayers' Hurdle with Lisnagar Oscar
Adam Wedge after winning the Stayers’ Hurdle with Lisnagar Oscar (Simon Cooper/PA)

The eight-year-old fell when attempting the defend his title, but Wedge conceded it was still a struggle to watch the whole meeting from the sidelines.

“It’s very hard,” he said.

“But at the end of the day I’m not the first person who’s going to miss out at Cheltenham – and I certainly won’t be the last.

“It is very hard but it’s great to see the horses running, even though I can’t be riding.”

Sweetening the lay-off is the prospect of reuniting with Secret Reprieve in the National, who is a leading fancy after his impressive Chepstow success but still as yet not guaranteed to make the cut for the final field, should connections opt to run.

“It’s definitely a ride to look forward to,” Wedge said.

“He’s a horse that seems to be improving, and I think Evan’s done a fantastic job in getting him in the right sort of form to go there.”

Secret Reprieve with Adam Wedge and Evan Williams
Secret Reprieve with Adam Wedge and Evan Williams (David Davies/PA)

Wedge first experienced the unique Aintree course when partnering Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Viking Blond in 2013. That horse was pulled up, and Wedge then parted company with Keith Dalgleish’s One In A Milan when tackling the race again the next year.

He could well be due a change in fortunes, because two further efforts have not resulted in completions either, – with Buywise unseating him in 2018 and Joe Farrell pulled up in 2019.

“I’ve ridden in it a couple of times and I haven’t got around yet,” he said.

“It’s definitely a race I want to win – it’d be right at the top of the list I’d say, for me at least.”

Secret Reprieve not heading to Cheltenham

Evan Williams has confirmed that Secret Reprieve will be an absentee at next week’s Cheltenham Festival.

The Welsh Grand National winner, who was achieving a lifetime ambition for his Glamorgan trainer when successful at Chepstow in January, has a tempting entry in the Aintree equivalent next month.

He held options before the Randox Grand National in both the National Hunt and Brown Advisory novice chases at Cheltenham – but they are no longer on his agenda this spring.

“He won’t go to Cheltenham,” said Williams.

“I will take him out of the Cheltenham races this week.”

Secret Reprieve is owned by William and Angela Rucker, for whom Williams has trained State Of Play and Cappa Bleu to be placed in previous Grand Nationals.

The seven-year-old is prominent in the ante-post betting, having been heavily backed for his impressive victory as the 5-2 favourite at Chepstow – where he was following up a wide-margin course success in the trial for that race.

Williams announced soon afterwards that Secret Reprieve would not take up his entry in last month’s Grand National Trial at Haydock, with later spring targets instead apparently in mind.

The hugely promising novice has risen a stone in the ratings for his two Chepstow handicap wins but is still currently due to carry just 10st 1lb at Aintree – and increasingly likely to make the cut for the race, should connections decide to head there.

On the subject of Aintree, Williams added: “The only thing I can categorically say is he will not go to Cheltenham.”

Chepstow hero Secret Reprieve to be entered for Grand National

Evan Williams has confirmed Secret Reprieve will be given an entry in the Randox Health Grand National at Aintree.

The seven-year-old novice landed a sustained gamble last time out in the Coral Welsh National at Chepstow, following up a win in the Trial for the same race.

While Williams was keen to stress Secret Reprieve is far from guaranteed to run at Aintree, owners William and Angela Rucker have unfinished business there 0 having been placed in the race seven times through State Of Play, Cappa Bleu and Alvarado.

“I don’t know what we will do next, but he will be entered in the Grand National – that’s all I can say right now,” said Williams.

“He will be entered in it. We’ve had a good discussion about it, and it will certainly be talked about. We might give that a shot.

“I’m not saying we’ll end up going there, but that is the latest – entries close next week. I’m not saying we are going to go, but I’m saying he will be entered.

“It’s only a few weeks since his run, and he’s only been going quietly. He has the entry for the Grand National Trial at Haydock – but that will come too soon, that’s one thing I can say. That will come too quick for him.”

Williams is also hoping to have two runners in the Betfair Hurdle next weekend, in Mack The Man and Ballinsker.

“We’ll try to get Mack The Man in, and if it dried Ballinsker could run,” he said.

“It’s very wet everywhere at the moment, but we are better having this weather at this time of year than in the spring.”

Chepstow hero Adam Wedge planning weekend return

Welsh National hero Adam Wedge hopes to be back in the saddle by the weekend as he takes a few days off to recover from an up-and-down day at Chepstow.

Before teaming up with fellow Welshman Evan Williams on Secret Reprieve to justify 5-2 favouritism in the big race, Wedge had suffered two crunching falls.

First Grade One winner Esprit Du Large fell heavily at the last in the handicap chase won by Cepage, then in the following contest Clyne came down three out when still in contention.

Wedge had to be patched up to take his mount in the big race, but victory never looked in any doubt, meaning a second home success in two seasons following that of Potters Corner for Christian Williams last term.

“I’m still a bit sore, so I’m just going to take a day or two to let the body recover a little bit,” said Wedge.

“I think my adrenaline kept me going through the day – but it would have taken a lot to keep me out of the National. Fingers crossed I’ll be back for the weekend.

“It’s a fantastic feeling to have won it, it’s unbelievable and it was a great training performance by Evan to get the horse there in such great condition.

“He’s got a little bit of class about him, he does travel very well and for a novice going into a race like that, he did everything fantastic.

“He jumped very well and hopefully it’s the sign of a very nice career to come. He’s very inexperienced really, a lot of people forget he’s still a novice.

“I was so pleased for Evan, he’s having a great year what with a Grade One as well, it’s a sign of how well he knows his horses to get the best out of them.”

Secret Reprieve lands Welsh National gamble in style

Secret Reprieve provided proud Welshman Evan Williams with victory in the Coral Welsh Grand National at Chepstow.

An impressive winner of the Welsh Grand National Trial at the Monmouthshire circuit in early December, the Flemensfirth gelding had been strongly fancied for the big race itself ever since.

And while the three-mile-five-furlong contest had to be abandoned due to a waterlogged track over the Christmas period, he was still allowed to line up under a 4lb penalty, meaning he was 8lb well-in at the weights.

With just 10st 1lb on his back, Secret Reprieve was all the rage as the 5-2 favourite, and his supporters will have had few concerns throughout the stamina-sapping feature, with the lightly-raced seven-year-old always travelling strongly and jumped accurately.

Despite having suffered two heavy falls earlier in the day, Adam Wedge cut a confident figure in the saddle rounding the home turn – and while The Two Amigos refused to go down without a fight and made a race of it, the market leader proved three lengths too strong.

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Just as he was in 2019, top-weight Yala Enki was third.

Victory was going to a Welsh-trained runner for the second season in succession, with Potters Corner, trained by Christian Williams, becoming the first Welsh winner since Norther in 1965 when triumphing last term.

Evan Williams said: “It’s more relief than anything else, which is a terrible thing to say. It means an awful lot to us.

“It’s nice tension to have (being the favourite) – that’s what we do it for. That was never a worry as far as I was concerned.

“The worry came today when Adam was on the floor. They patched him up absolutely unbelievably well and Adam deserves the plaudits – how he can ride after having two crunching falls like he’s had, I just take my hat off to him.

“The horse is a joy to deal with. You can never be confident when you’re going over this sort of trip, but in the pit of my stomach I though it would bring out further improvement and it looked to me like he galloped right through the line.”

Evan Williams (left) with Secret Reprieve at Chepstow
Evan Williams (left) with Secret Reprieve at Chepstow (David Davies/PA)

The Llancarfan-based trainer confirmed afterwards that Secret Reprieve’s girth had broken in the latter part of the race.

He added: “It’s mad how it works out. After the day ‘Wedgey’ has had, I was thinking ‘oh no, he can’t jump the last and then Adam falls off’. It must have happened later on in the race.

“You’ve got the girth with two buckles, which basically keeps the saddle on. Then you have an over-girth with elastic on that goes round the whole lot and without that, Adam would have fallen off.”

Adam Wedge celebrates his Welsh Grand National success
Adam Wedge celebrates his Welsh Grand National success (David Davies/PA)

The winner received quotes of around 25-1 for the Grand National at Aintree in April, but Williams warned he is not certain to head for the world’s most famous steeplechase.

He said: “The race that really comes to mind is the National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. That is only because he’s a novice.

“The reality is that the Grand National would be higher on my list, but I’ll have to talk to Mr and Mrs Rucker (owners) and see which way they want to go and see how the horse comes out of this race.”

Secret steps up for Welsh National assignment

Evan Williams is hoping Secret Reprieve can overcome his inexperience and justify favouritism in the Coral Welsh Grand National at Chepstow on Saturday.

The seven-year-old has headed the ante-post market for the long-distance handicap chase since a resounding success in the Rehearsal Chase at the Monmouthshire venue last month.

That was only his fifth run over fences and eighth career start in all, but Secret Reprieve does tick a lot of boxes ahead of the contest, which is subject to an 8am precautionary inspection.

“The positives are he’s well handicapped, he has a good racing weight and he loves the track,” said the Llancarfan trainer.

“The negatives are he’s very inexperienced and he’s got no experience in big fields, so there are positives and negatives but fingers crossed it’s on.”

Williams also saddles Prime Venture, who was fourth behind Potter’s Corner in this race last season and made a winning reappearance at Sedgefield in November.

“Prime Venture is a horse who has to improve because he’s up 4lb, but I think he has improved,” he said.

Prime Venture bids to improve on his fourth place in last season's Coral Welsh Grand National
Prime Venture bids to improve on his fourth place in last season’s Coral Welsh Grand National (Clint Hughes/PA)

“He’s far from straightforward, but on his day he does thrive in races like the Welsh National.

“He’s been placed in a Welsh National, placed in a Midlands National and he’s more than capable on his day.”

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Ramses De Teillee, runner-up to Elegant Escape in December 2018, is one of two runners from the David Pipe stable.

The grey has to bounce back from a disappointing run in the Becher Chase at Aintree, over the Grand National fences, won by his stablemate Vieux Lion Rouge.

“Ramses De Teillee didn’t handle the fences at Aintree last time. He’ll be more at home over the park fences. He’s finished second in the race before,” said the Nicholashayne handler.

Vieux Lion Rouge has a 4lb penalty for his Becher success.

“Vieux Lion Rouge is 8lb well in, but going up 12lb for his last win was harsh enough,” Pipe added.

“Both are in good form and will like the ground and hopefully have each-way chances.”

Springfield Fox is expected to relish the testing conditions at Chepstow
Springfield Fox is expected to relish the testing conditions at Chepstow (Simon Cooper/PA)

Tom George feels Springfield Fox will relish the heavy ground and is expecting a big run.

The eight-year-old has not run over fences since unseating his rider in the National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, but had a prep run over hurdles on this course five weeks ago.

“He loves really heavy, testing ground – that’s perfect for him. He gives the impression he just keeps galloping. He’s not a speed horse, he’s an out-and-out stayer,” said the Slad handler.

“I think everything is in his favour, I just hope it goes ahead.”

Truckers Lodge and Yala Enki were second and third 12 months ago and their trainer Paul Nicholls is convinced they will not be far away again.

“Conditions will be ideal for both of ours,” the Ditcheat handler told Betfair.

“Yala Enki stays all day, has gone close in the race for the last two years and is again a big player despite carrying top weight.

“He did brilliantly at Cheltenham in November when he was only just chinned by Ramses De Teillee. That was a career best in my book, but he then over jumped at the first in the Becher Chase at Aintree which was just one of those things. He looks rock solid in a race tailor-made for him.”

Truckers Lodge won the Midlands National last season, but is a lot higher in the handicap and unseated his rider at Kelso on his return.

“He is nice and fresh and was fine after he unluckily unseated Lorcan Williams at Kelso the day I expected him to go close,” said Nicholls.

“He is a relentless galloper and ran clean away with the Midlands Grand National just before lockdown, although the handicapper had his say afterwards by raising him 14lb.

“Truckers Lodge ran a blinder in this race a year ago to be beaten less than two lengths by Potters Corner and will give a good account again, though it will be harder for him from his new handicap mark.”

Nicky Martin has The Two Amigos in tip-top condition for the Coral Welsh Grand National
Nicky Martin has The Two Amigos in tip-top condition for the Coral Welsh Grand National (Clint Hughes/PA)

Nicky Martin reports The Two Amigos to be in better shape than 12 months ago when he was fifth and he made an encouraging reappearance when second to Secret Reprieve last month.

“He doesn’t do a lot when he comes off the bridle and he is a front-runner. That’s where enjoys being, but he does stay all day. Hopefully, he’ll stay a bit better this time,” Martin told Sky Sports Racing.

“Obviously the favourite (Secret Reprieve) is well handicapped, but we’re slightly better in at the weights this time round.

“He’s just very consistent. He’s rated 142. He’s off the same mark as he was last year. He’s never won off that mark, but he’s always there or thereabouts.”

Evan Williams aiming for glory at last in Welsh National

Evan Williams is pinning his hopes on Secret Reprieve to lead the charge at Chepstow this weekend – and finally prove he can train the Welsh Grand National winner.

Williams has had to grin and bear it from an early age, and specifically since his hugely successful training career began to flourish, whenever his father Rhys pointed out the Christmas marathon was still missing from his CV.

It is only a short journey round Cardiff and up the M4 from his Llancarfan base to the undulations of Chepstow, and he has worn weary at times of the jokes at his expense as he has returned without the main prize each year.

Williams’ own assessment of his Welsh National record – “not exactly great” – is notably modest, given he has provided the runner-up, third and twice the fourth, including last year with the returning Prime Venture.

He left the course 12 months ago with understandably mixed feelings, in fact, after his fellow Glamorgan trainer Christian Williams sent out Potters Corner to be Wales’ first winner of the race since Norther in 1965.

There was a thrill with the “right result” – but more than ever it meant those reminders of how Williams senior had won point-to-points on Norther, who went on to be partnered by the flamboyant Terry Biddlecombe at Chepstow.

“My father used to rib me for all of my life about it,” he said.

This year, the talented six-year-old Secret Reprieve – 7-2 ante-post favourite with title sponsors Coral – and Prime Venture promise that elusive moment of glory.

Williams added: “I’d like to do it for Wales, fly the flag for Wales, but most importantly I’d like to do it for the horse and the owners – because both sets of owners are massive supporters, and I get an awful lot of enjoyment out of training winners for them.

“(Years ago) it was just this mythical event that I never thought I’d have a horse good enough to run in, or a trainer’s licence to be able to run in it.

“I suppose it’s because of all these old fellas over the years that have told me about the Welsh National that it means such a lot to have a horse with a chance of winning.”

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As for his father’s association with Norther, he said: “That’s all I’ve heard about all my life…he ribbed me for years and years.

“Although I was fourth last year, I was glad I wasn’t second – and I was just delighted another Welsh horse had managed to win it, so I wouldn’t have to hear about Norther all my life.”

He has often endured rather than enjoyed those tales of yore.

“It’s like everything you hear about in the old days,” he said, in a call hosted by Great British Racing.

“They were always better, the fences were always bigger and the races were always stronger.”

The celebrations were fierce too, he senses: “My father liked a drink, and Terry Biddlecombe liked a drink, and it’s fair to say there were plenty of places in Cardiff which you wouldn’t want to go to that got a hammering that weekend.”

State Of Play was an Aintree regular
State Of Play was an Aintree regular (David Davies/PA)

Secret Reprieve, bidding to follow up his 12-length romp in the big-race trial over seven furlongs shorter, carries the famous colours of the Rucker family – for whom Williams trained Cappa Bleu to finish third in 2013 as well as Aintree Grand National regular State Of Play, among many others.

He said: “They’re irreplaceable supporters of ours – owners with us from the very start.

“We have a very close relationship, very close bond – without them, make no mistake, this racing yard wouldn’t be what it is. They support you – if it goes right they support you, and if it goes wrong they support you.”

Victory in the Ruckers’ blue and pink will be special for the yard, and so too if Prime Venture were to upset the odds for his Welsh owner Janet Davies.

“I do beat myself up about it sometimes that we haven’t managed to nail one of those major Nationals,” said Williams.

“It would mean an awful lot to me to win any of them.

“I have an awful habit of being placed in all of these big races – it’s nice to win them now and again.”

He is confident his two contenders will have “exactly what they want” if, as usual, this year’s race is run on heavy ground – and win or lose, he sees a bright future for Secret Reprieve.

“I hope he can figure higher in the handicap ranks down the line, and he might just be a bit better than that,” he said.

“He could be anything – but he has to go and do it on Sunday, and it will be a big test.”

Potters Corner was a Welsh National winner for Wales
Potters Corner was a Welsh National winner for Wales (David Davies/PA)

Williams was able to join the Welsh chorus of approval at victory for Potters Corner last year.

“I was genuinely thrilled that it was Christian who was the first Welsh winner for so long,” he said.

“But if I’d been second I wouldn’t have been so thrilled … I’d have been a miserable devil.

“It was the right result last year for the rugby boys (owners) and Christian – they would have done a better job of celebrating than me. I’d have just come home and fed some cattle, and gone to bed!”

If his name is to stay off the silverware again, he has no hesitation in naming Colin Tizzard as the trainer he would love to see successful with Christmas In April.

This weekend’s renewal is named the Coral Welsh Grand National (run in memory of Kim Gingell) – in memory of Tizzard’s daughter, who died in May.

Williams said: “If I got beaten a short-head by the Tizzards, would I really begrudge them? I wouldn’t.

“It’s run in Kim’s honour – sometimes there’s bigger things than a few horses running round a wet, boggy field in Monmouthshire, isn’t there?”