DONALD McCain is one trainer who knows what it takes to win a National and he's looking at the Welsh version for Across The Bay after the former Noel Meade inmate landed the Graduation Chase at Carlisle.
A smart dual-purpose performer when trained by Meade, the eight-year-old had been run exclusively over hurdles since joining McCain for the start of last season.
Switched back to the bigger obstacles, Across The Bay (10/11 favourite) jumped with great accuracy throughout, making virtually every yard under Jason Maguire to beat Aintree Grand National fourth Cappa Bleu by 28 lengths.
"We went back over fences not knowing how he'd take to it, having had a bit of a fright in the Irish National," said McCain.
"He's definitely going the right way. He jumps, gallops, stays and he's got a grand way about him.
"The Welsh National has to be on our minds as he goes on the ground and stays all day."
McCain and Maguire doubled up with Kruzhlinin (10/11 favourite) in the novice chase but were denied a treble when Lucinda Russell's No Deal (7/2) – a Carrigtwohill point-to-point winner – beat their Cloud Creeper in the closing bumper.
Another Irish import impressed in the novices' hurdle as Morning Royalty (5/1) scooted clear inside the final furlong. A smart bumper horse for Willie Mullins, he was bought to join Jimmy Moffatt but disappointed on his debut for the yard at Hexham.
However, he left that performance well behind with a stylish display in the hands of Brian Harding, beating Imjoeking by 10 lengths.
Harding was completing a 41/1 double of his own as the veteran Cork jockey had earlier landed the opening handicap chase aboard course specialist Royal Mackintosh (6/1). Alan Mactaggart's 11-year-old has only ever won at Carlisle and jumped well before battling on gamely to beat Fog Patches by a neck.
At Southwell, Jim Dreaper was on the mark as Oscar Leney made a successful raid to claim the handicap chase over three miles under Richie McGrath. The son of Oscar won a point-to-point on his fifth attempt at Laurencetown in May.
Having been as big as 10/3 in the morning, he was well supported and the 5/2 shot put in decent jumps at the last three before edging out Flichity by just over a length. The winner could bid to follow up today as he is declared for Sedgefield's two-and-a-half-mile handicap chase.