Last year, history was made as the iconic Grand National was unable to go ahead, amidst the coronavirus pandemic, and in its place, a televised virtual race was shown. It was the first year since 1945, and the end of World War II, that the Aintree centrepiece didn’t take place – but the good news is, that the 2021 edition is only weeks away!
At this early stage, we already know that two-time successive winner Tiger Roll will not be bidding for that hat-trick, and the page for the Grand National betting odds currently suggests that Cloth Cap is a clear favourite. Back-to-back wins have no doubt boosted his claims ahead of the race.
And while talk has been of Tiger Roll’s omission and subsequent ‘weight debate’, slipping under the radar is last year’s virtual winner, Potters Corner, who is someway off the market leaders, at a price of 25/1.
The Christian Williams-trained gelding held slightly shorter odds ahead of last year’s virtual race, having been successful in the Welsh Grand National at Chepstow in December 2019. But after such a long break, halted and stalled by the coronavirus pandemic, it’s not been a return to winning ways for the 11-year-old, or Welsh jockey, Jack Tudor.
He had previously taken well to the fences at Cheltenham, back in November – placing in the Cross Country Handicap Chase – but missed out on last year’s Welsh Grand National, in favour of a place at Cheltenham this month, as a springboard to Aintree.
Due to be racing in the Cross Country Chase on day two of this week’s Cheltenham Festival, Williams confirmed that the gelding had been ruled out, after rendering lame, just a couple of days prior to the race. The trainer explained:
“He had a little over-reach a day or two ago. We were hoping it would be nothing but there was a slight inflammation yesterday”
It was disappointing news for all connected with Potters Corner, but all being well, it should be all systems go for Aintree. He was given a run-out last month at Exeter, where things didn’t quite go to plan. The chase track was deemed unraceable, and instead, Potters Corner raced on heavy ground in the Pertemps Handicap Hurdle, where he was pulled up.
The gelding will now not race until the National on April 10th. But this recent news doesn’t appear to have alarmed those connected with last year’s virtual winner, as Williams revealed:
“The Grand National has been his number one target for the last 18 months or so. After last year’s Welsh National we’ve targeted this race, so I’m trying to give him the ideal prep for it.”
And Potters Corner has been handed the same weight as he was allocated last year, despite his dip in form, and consequent decline in the ratings. While a run-out at the Cheltenham Festival would have been ideal, ahead of the Aintree centrepiece, there’s no denying his staying power and while he’s not been the best over hurdles recently, Potters Corner has nothing to prove. But should he defy the odds and win the race, having been successful in its virtual counterpart, what a story that would be.