It must have been a strange feeling for trainer Christian Williams, as he watched the horse he has enjoyed much success with, storm to victory in the Virtual Grand National on April 4th. After all, Williams would have been dreaming of leading Potters Corner to a famous win in the real-life Grand National, before the unforeseen suspension of horse racing as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.
The computer-simulated Potters Corner was an 18/1 outsider in the build-up to the Virtual Grand National, a computerised running of the race which raised money for the NHS. But he ended up overcoming the odds to win the race, pipping the 16/1 chance Walk In The Mill. It was an event which attracted a large TV audience and plenty of coverage online and on social media, but afterwards most were left lamenting the lack of real-life sporting action on our TV screens.
When horse racing does return, it will be interesting to see how Potters Corner fares in real life, and if he can become a regular high-placer on Betting.Betfair’s racecards. His profile has been raised slightly by the win in the Virtual Grand National, but he has plenty of solid attributes which make him a horse to be reckoned with.
This was evidenced by Williams and Potters Corner’s victory in the Welsh Grand National back in December – at a time when the idea of global pandemics and nationwide lockdown would’ve been laughable. It was a fine performance by the horse owned partly by famous Welsh rugby player Jonathan Davies, beating a packed field of competitors to the coveted prize at Chepstow.
Davies’ ownership gives Potters Corner something of a claim to fame in Wales, and the fact that he was able to be a home-grown winner of the Welsh Grand National was a moment to savour for the rugby player.
“It’s an absolute dream for us,” Davies said. “Christian has been amazing with him and deserves all the plaudits. It’s been amazing. I can’t stop smiling. I’m over the moon.”
That made it two wins from two for the 10-year-old, and the Grand National would have been the next big event for him, but as we all know the race could not be held. With horse racing in limbo for the moment, there is a sense that now is the time to properly prepare horses for the time when racing gets back underway, and you can bet that Williams will have his horse in tip-top shape when the sport gets going once again.
The trainer described Potters Corner as ‘a special horse’ after his success in the Welsh Grand National, but the time has come for him to back up those claims with more success. When sporting action gets back underway once again, the races will come thick and fast, and there will be no time to rest on laurels or sit smugly in the glow of past triumphs – be they real-life or virtual.
While victory in the Grand National will have had no tangible benefit for horse or trainer, it will have raised the profile of Potters Corner, and that will bring pressure in itself. When racing resumes, Potters Corner will be on a quest to prove that he can match his virtual accomplishments in real life.