Mountainous scaling new heights
Richard Lee senses Mountainous faces a tough climb in his attempt to follow up his Chepstow win in the West Wales National at Ffos Las.
The nine-year-old, co-owned by Ffos Las founder and chairman Dai Walters, ground out a fine triumph in the Coral Welsh Grand National.
He carried the bottom weight of 10st that day, but is burdened with 11st 9lb in this long-distance handicap chase.
"I think it's almost as tough a race at the weights. We've a lot more to carry than in the Welsh National when he had 10st," said Lee.
"We are where we are and we have to put up with it.
"The big danger for me would be De La Bech (trained by Philip Hobbs). He won at Chepstow in December in the mud and Mountainous was third.
"De La Bech is 5lb better off and he beat us as well, so, strictly on the book, there is no way we can beat him.
"That race was over three miles and the extra half a mile will help us.
"Mountainous came out of Chepstow quite well. He's been ticking over and it's all gone very smoothly.
"It would be fantastic to win at Ffos Las for Mr Walters. We 're delighted to have Paul Moloney ride again, but this is a wide-open handicap."
Walters does not expect the prevailing testing conditions to hamper Mountainous.
"He'll run all right in this muck. He should go well," he said.
Towards the bottom end of the handicap is Flying Award, whose trainer Sue Gardner is expecting a decent run.
The 10-year-old was a winner at Wincanton two weeks ago and will be ridden as usual by her daughter, Lucy.
"He'll have a really good chance at the weights with the ground," said the Exeter handler.
"It's going to be the best company he's run in, but some of them have got to carry a lot of weight.
"He won't mind the ground, he'll get the trip and his style of running suits that style of race, so we're hopeful.
"Lucy always rides him and her 5lb claim will help on that ground, I'd have thought."
Smoking Aces is also near the bottom of the weights and has pleased connections since his return from injury.
The 10-year-old, trained by Jonjo O'Neill, was sidelined for 19 months and showed he retained plenty of ability when second to Reblis in the Sussex National on his second run back at Plumpton four weeks ago.
"He came back after a leg injury and ran a blinder the last day and hopefully he might come on for it," said Frank Berry, racing manager to owner JP McManus.
"The ground and the trip and everything should suit him."