Welsh National: Paul Nicholls' Tidal Bay heads Chepstow field
Trainer Paul Nicholls believes 12-year-old chaser Tidal Bay has the quality and stamina to win Saturday's Coral Welsh Grand National at Chepstow.
Tidal Bay won Sandown's bet365 Gold Cup in 2012 and proved he could mix it with the best when he won the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown last Christmas.
He will carry top weight of 11st 10lb when he faces 19 rivals at Chepstow.
"Tidal Bay won the bet365 over three-miles-five on very heavy ground. He has a touch of class," said Nicholls.
The Ditcheat handler also saddles Hawkes Point in the big race, but he has only had 10 runs in his career.
"Hawkes Point ran very well at Chepstow last time. We've thought he would stay marathon trips for a while," Nicholls added.
Well Refreshed , who is among the favourites, has always looked an ideal candidate for this type of race since winning the Grand National Trial at Haydock last season.
He returned to form when third at Sandown last time out and the presence of Tidal Bay means he only carries 10st 2lb.
Recent Welsh National winners
- 2012: Monbeg Dude 10-1
- 2011: Le Beau Bai 10-1
- 2010: Synchronised 5-1
- 2009: Dream Alliance 20-1
- 2008: Notre Pere 16-1
- 2007: Miko de Beauchene 13-2
"He seems in good form and he must have a good chance," said trainer Gary Moore.
"He's got a lovely racing weight as far as I'm concerned. As long as he jumps a bit better than he did at Sandown he must have some sort of chance."
Home hopes also rest with Teaforthree, narrowly touched off in the race 12 months ago and third in the Grand National at Aintree.
However, trainer Rebecca Curtis has made it known that the nine-year-old had a setback earlier in the season.
"He had a good summer's break. He did have a slight bit of a setback just after he came back in, which is why he's late running again," said Curtis.
"It's a shame not to have got a prep run into him, but that's the way it has gone this year.
"He'll be very fit but he normally does just take a run to be at his best. You're always vulnerable to a horse at the bottom of the weights, but we're there hoping for the best."
Jonjo O'Neill's Merry King is only six but finished fifth in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury.
"Merry King is in good form. He ran a nice race in the Hennessy. He came there well but when they quickened up, he couldn't go with them," said O'Neill.
Stablemate Alfie Sherrin was not declared. Richard Lee, who won the race two years ago with Le Beau Bai, has two runners in Knock A Hand and Mountainous.
"I hope they've both got a good chance as they stay well," said Lee.
"I thought Mountainous' jumping round the course the other day was fantastic, and it helps they know where they are going. Both are proper staying chasers who want a trip."
Evan Williams is another local trainer looking to keep the prize in Wales though One In A Milan will be one of the outsiders.
"I always thought the race would suit and we'd get there with a good run under our belt, but we've only got a bad run under our belt," said Williams.
"There are plenty of times when big-priced horses get into the first four and he'll run well in a big race one day."
Jim Dreaper faced a logistical nightmare with Goonyella after the Christmas Eve ferry on which he was originally booked was cancelled due to rough seas. He was instead forced to travel from Belfast on Boxing Day.
"He left our yard at 7am and got to Chepstow at midnight so it was a long journey but he's there," said Dreaper.
"He needs all the distance you can find after three miles. He seems to stay extremely well, and obviously the Chepstow race is ideal for that sort of horse."