Wayne Hutchinson picks up the ride on Universal Soldier, who is 14-1PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
Hutchinson booked for Longsdon's Soldier
WAYNE HUTCHINSON will partner Universal Soldier for the first time in the Coral Welsh National, in-form trainer Charlie Longsdon revealed on Thursday.
Longsdon, who saddles his first runner of 2013 at Lingfield on Friday and who with 40 winners already this season is on course to post a personal-best tally, will also have runners at Sandown on Saturday, where stable jockey Noel Fehily rides for him.
Universal Soldier, second to fellow Welsh National candidate Quartz De Thaix at Haydock on soft ground in November on his only start so far this season, was cut a couple of points to 12-1 by bet365, Boylesports, Blue Square and William Hill on Thursday.
The Welsh National looks unlikely to attract a maximum field of 20 when declarations are done on Friday morning, but should still offer each-way betting to four places, with at least 16 runners lining up.
That suits Longsdon just fine as he said: "He has an each-way chance. He is in great form and will have some headgear on to help him. This has been the plan for a long, long time. He wants heavy ground and three and a half miles."
Fehily's mounts at Sandown will include the Nick Williams-trained Alfie Spinner, who had been well backed for the Welsh National on Wednesday but was on Thursday declared for Sandown's £50,000 3m handicap chase.
Charlie Longsdon: each-way hopePICTURE: Edward Whitaker
Chepstow entries Katenko, Royal Charm and Across The Bay were also confirmed for the Sandown contest, but Across The Bay - top weight at Chepstow - has Sandown as a second-preference target.
Chepstow had only spots of rain on Thursday amounting to half a millimetre, and clerk of the course Keith Ottesen said: "The going is still heavy but it's looking good as long as the rain holds off, as forecast.
"Depending on the rate of improvement in the worst areas, one of two fences and hurdles might have to be omitted. I'm still not happy with a couple of fences in the back straight."
The Welsh National market is headed by Teaforthree, who hardened into 3-1 (from a widely available 7-2 on Thursday morning) to give a home victory to Newport trainer Rebecca Curtis, who has booked Tony McCoy for the mount.
For the race sponsor, spokesman David Stevens said: "McCoy's mount will be sent off as the first well-backed big-race favourite of 2013."