Despite the best efforts of the weather, the Coral Welsh Grand National is set to take place at Chepstow on Saturday and there is unlikely to be anyone keener to win the race than trainer Evan Williams.
A proud Welshman, Williams saddles three runners in the race, which has been saved and rearranged after a deluge of rain just after Christmas left the course unraceable.
We spoke to Williams about his Coral Welsh Grand National contenders and also got the latest on stable legend Buywise and leading lights Silver Streak and John Constable.
You have three runners in the Coral Welsh Grand National at Chepstow on Saturday. Pobbles Bay looks your strongest candidate, would you agree?
You’d hope so, although it doesn’t mean that he will be as he’s not had a great deal of experience. You hope he’s a horse who can improve from where he is as he’s so lightly raced and he’s shown he has talent. I’m not concerned about his relative lack of experience as I’m not riding him!
On The Road is an extremely consistent horse. How will he handle the step up in grade?
He’s been very progressive at a low level so this is a big step up and it will be a big ask for him. It’s going to be very tough. He’s got the tongue tie on as I thought ‘why not?’. He’s had operations on his wind as a young horse and it’s a long way around there in testing conditions and it might help him a little bit.
Firebird Flyer has done well in these races before. How are things with him?
He’s been second in this race and won a Midlands National so he’s been a wonderful servant to us. Last season was a complete disaster and I thought we were going to retire him. But he ran a great race first time up over hurdles this season and the old boy deserves another crack at the top. He’s been in great form since that run over hurdles.
The ground at Chepstow will be very testing. Will any of your horses be particularly advantaged or disadvantaged by conditions?
No. All three horses will handle extreme, deep ground; I have no doubts about that. However, running over that distance in that ground should hold fears to every one of the horses in that race. It’s as wet as I’ve ever known it.
Adam Wedge, Mitchell Bastyan and Conor Ring ride for you at Chepstow. What are they like?
Adam is a good lad and he’s a lad we think an awful lot of too. Mitch Bastyan claims 5lb and is one of the best conditionals to have come through this season, and he’s shown his talents by winning some nice races already. Conor Ring is the hardest-working jockey I’ve ever known. He’s won big races for us in the past and is a great horseman. All three boys know their horses so well and they are a very big part of what we do here, that’s why they ride them.
You also run Gwalia at Chepstow in the bumper. What do you expect from him?
He ran well first time but the form of his race doesn’t look too strong. He needs another run so it seems as good a place as any to go.
Buywise, an old favourite of many, goes for the veterans’ chase at Sandown. How is he and how do you think he will get on there?
He’s fantastic. I think his talents are on the wane now but what a wonderful servant he has been to us. I thought it was worth running him in that final against the older horses and he’s starting to act like an old horse. It’ll give him more of a chance this race, but he’s been the most wonderful horse and a joy to have anything to do with.
Silver Streak came close to landing a big prize at Ascot just before Christmas. What is the plan for him now?
I’m very happy with Silver Streak. He’ll go for the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury in the middle of February and I think he’d go very well in that race.
And, finally, where are we likely to see stable star John Constable next?
He’s going to be trained for the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. We thought he ran very well against Champion Hurdle calibre horses last time and he deserves a crack at a big race now. He should improve for a bit of sunshine and a bit of decent ground as well.