Thirty horses were left in the Coral Welsh Grand National at the five-day declaration stage, including four previous winners of the race.
Top weight is Native River, who won it in 2016 and went on to take the Cheltenham Gold Cup the following season. His trainer Colin Tizzard is also set to run the 2018 Welsh National winner Elegant Escape. He recently came back from a 631 day absence with a warm-up over hurdles. Christian Williams’ Potters Corner, successful in 2019, was the first Welsh owned, trained and ridden winner of the race for more than 80 years. Last season Secret Reprieve won it, fulfilling a lifetime ambition for his Mid Glamorgan trainer Evan Williams. He is only four pounds higher this time and is still only seven years old. He is the favourite.
The Irish have a couple of challengers, notably The Big Dog, the winner of a big-field long distance chase at Punchestown in February. His County Kildare handler Peter Fahey says he is expecting “a massive performance”, which accounts for his position as second favourite.
Only a neck separated Paul Nicholls’ Highland Hunter and Philip Hobbs’ Deise Aba at the end of Sandown’s 3m5f London National at the beginning of December. The latter, carrying the colours of the late Trevor Hemmings, is five pounds better off, which in theory should allow him to turn the tables. Both are strongly fancied.
Another one near the head of the market is Venetia Williams’ Hold That Taught, who has been very consistent since going over fences and has proved he stays three and a quarter miles on soft going.
The other Welsh entries are Sam Thomas’ Iwilldoit, David Brace’s Colorado Doc, Tim Vaughan’s Eva’s Oskar, Peter Bowen’s Becher Chase winner Mac Tottie and his stablemate Game Line.
Two Scottish trainers have runners. The main contender is Lucinda Russell’s Mighty Thunder, a guaranteed stayer; he has won a Scottish National over an even longer trip than the Welsh version.
The final list of 20 runners will be known on Boxing Day.