The weights for the 2013 Coral Welsh National have been announced and the Paul Nicholls trained Tidal Bay tops the list with 11-12.
With an OR of 163 he is the highest rated horse of the 88 entries received for the event and a full 10lbs more than his next rival, Teaforthree, the Rebecca Curtis trained nine-year-old who has been allotted 11-02. Teaforthree finished second in the 2012 renewal behind the ultimate winner, Monbeg Dude, carrying 1lb more but should Tidal Bay be withdrawn, Teaforthree's weight will increase as the next highest rated horse.
Nicholls has seven contenders for this race with three of them in the top four weights – Tidal Bay (11-12), The Minack (11-01) and Rocky Creek (11-00).
But it's the Donald McCain trained Sydney Paget, who is fast becoming the favourite. The recent Haydock winner heads betting markets after the weights were released for the Chepstow showpiece.
Coral's David Stevens said “Sydney Paget was a 20-1 shot prior to his win at Haydock at the weekend, but went to the head of the betting as a result of that success, and even a 13lb hike in the ratings might not prevent him following up at Chepstow given the high regard trainer Donald McCain has for his charge.”
Having been allotted 10st 8lb following the release of the weights for the Chepstow marathon, Sydney Paget is one of five McCain trained horses entered this year along with Beeves, Super Duty, Real Milan and Across The Bay, the last three of which also look set to get a place in the Aintree Grand National in April 2014.
Speaking after the Haydock win, McCain said “I've always liked him. I put him in the Welsh National and we'll definitely consider it. He likes proper soft ground and he jumps well so it could be just the race for him.
“But he'll also have entries in the Tommy Whittle and the Paddy Power Chase, which is worth an absolute fortune, in Ireland.
“With the Welsh National, if Tidal Bay runs it will be very tempting, but he's also a horse that we'd like to take back to Haydock given the way he won.”
This year saw a bumper number of entries of 88, up from the 55 entered in 2012 and with only 20 runners allowed in the race, the numbers will no doubt be reduced very quickly over the coming weeks.
Currently the likes of Wyck Hill, Well Refreshed, Midnight Appeal, Alfie Sherrin and Goonyella, another ante-post race favourite, are not yet guaranteed a spot at the starting line for the event which is due to take place at Chepstow Racecourse on December 28th 2013.
The prize fund for this race has been increased from £90,000 in 2012 to £100,000 for the 2013 renewal.