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Crosspark’s Eider bid hinges on drying ground

Caroline Bailey is hoping the ground dries out so Crosspark can try to win the Vertem Eider Handicap Chase for a second time at Newcastle.

The 11-year-old, who took this marathon contest in 2019, heads the weights for Saturday’s marathon after 16 horses stood their ground at the confirmation stage.

The plan is head to the north east as long as conditions are not too testing. The ground on Monday was described as soft, heavy in places, but the forecast is for dry weather from the middle of the week.

Bailey does not want Crosspark to carry 11st 12lb on unsuitable ground.

“He’s fit and ready to go if the ground is not too heavy,” said the Northampton trainer.

“With top weight, it would be too much.

“The forecast after tomorrow looks better, so we’ve got to be hopeful.

“He’s not a very big horse and he wouldn’t want to carry that weight in heavy ground – but if it dries out to soft, good to soft then we’ll certainly consider it.

“It was good to soft when he won it two years ago, but he was carrying a lot less and rated 15lb lower than he is now.”

Among the potential opposition is the Brian Ellison-trained Sam’s Adventure, winner of the Tommy Whittle Chase at Haydock.

Lucinda Russell may be two-handed with Big River and Haul Us In, while Tom George has both Springfield Fox and Boyhood in the reckoning.

Others in the mix include The Dutchman, Cyclop, Classic Ben and David Pipe’s Little Red Lion, winner of three of his last four starts.

Honeyball looking to headgear to reignite Jepeck spark

Anthony Honeyball hopes the addition of cheekpieces and a tongue tie can help Jepeck bounce back to form and secure back-to-back victories in the Unibet Veterans’ Handicap Chase at Sandown.

The 12-year-old will bid to open his account for the season by repeating his success of 12 months ago in the three-mile final of the veterans’ series.

After pulling up over course and distance in November on his return to action, Jepeck suffered the same result on his most recent outing in last month’s Welsh National Trial at Chepstow.

Honeyball said: “He seems in good form at home – we’ve had this race in mind since he qualified at Carlisle at the end of last season and we have gone through similar paces to end up in the final.

“Last season he was coming into the race off some pretty good efforts over hurdles and his confidence was sky high.

“His two runs this season have been nothing to get excited about, but hopefully the addition of cheekpieces and a tongue tie can spark him up.

“He is back down to the same mark as last year’s race, but I think it is a tougher race this year. There are no signs at home to suggest why he won’t run well.”

Crosspark has not won since landing the 2019 Eider Chase at Newcastle and has finished second in his three starts so far this season.

Caroline Bailey, trainer, said: “Crosspark is fit and well and he goes there in good form from his last run at the track.

“He has gone up 6lb since the start of the season as he is running so well, but you can’t ignore that (the rise) is frustrating when they aren’t winning.

“The handicapper thinks he is still improving from 10 to 11, but whether he has too much weight, only time will tell.

“He won’t particularly like it if it becomes sticky, but it was pretty horrible last time and he ran well and we know he stays well.”

Potters Legend will be out to gain a second success this season having made a winning return at Warwick (Adam Davy/PA)
Potters Legend will be out to gain a second success this season having made a winning return at Warwick (Adam Davy/PA)

Lucy Wadham expects recent Cheltenham runner-up Potters Legend to have no problems handling the testing conditions.

She said: “I thought we were going to get there at Cheltenham, but both he and third probably helped the winner pick up. However, he ran on well to the line.

“This race has been in the back of our mind, but he would have probably run at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day, so it’s plan B.

“He is probably as good now as he has ever been as he has just matured as a chaser. He is a very strong horse, so he pretty much handles any ground.”

Sametegal and Sam Twiston-Davies (right) gets up to win the 2016 Greatwood Gold Cup at Newbury (Jonathan Brady/PA Images)
Sametegal and Sam Twiston-Davies (right) gets up to win the 2016 Greatwood Gold Cup at Newbury (Jonathan Brady/PA Images)

Paul Nicholls believes a day out hunting has sharpened up Sametegal, who will be seeking a first success since the 2016 Greatwood Gold Cup at Newbury.

“This veterans’ race has been the target for Sametegal ever since he finished sixth in the Grand Sefton Chase over the National fences at Aintree,” said Nicholls in his Betfair column.

“He is so consistent he doesn’t get much help from the handicapper and he ran as well as ever when a close third behind Step Back at Sandown over three miles early in November.

“Sametegal loved his day out with the Blackmore and Sparkford Hunt the other day. I expect him to run his usual honest race, though he does find it hard to win.”

Sir Ivan has run well in both starts over two and a half miles this season, however trainer Harry Fry expects the 11-year-old to be equally effective stepped back up in trip.

Fry said: “He’s been running consistently well this season, which has always been his downfall really because he never moves much in the handicap.

“He ran his best race over fences in a long time the last day at Leicester.

“Obviously this is a step back up in trip, but he’s got form over the distance and takes his chance.”

Crosspark’s Becher venture hinges on good ground

Caroline Bailey believes the time is right to give Crosspark his first taste of the Aintree’s unique obstacles by running him in the William Hill Becher Handicap Chase.

Conditions at Liverpool will be key, however – with Crosspark’s participation hinging on good ground next Saturday.

As a precaution, Bailey intends to give her 2019 Eider Chase winner an alternative option with an entry in the veterans’ chase at Sandown on the same day.

“We’re looking at going in the Becher Chase if the ground’s good. He’s in good order,” said the Northamptonshire trainer.

“He might get an entry in the staying race at Sandown as well, as a back-up, but the plan at the moment is to go for the Becher Chase. He wants good ground.

“The Welsh National entry is a little bit up in the air, because it’s normally heavy ground, so I think he’ll come out of that and run somewhere this coming month. Then he’ll have a break until the spring.”

Crosspark has finished a close second in both his starts this autumn, having previously been absent since pulling up in the Classic Chase at Warwick in January.

“We’ll run him while he’s in such good form,” added Bailey.

“He’s dead genuine. He’s 10, and these veteran races probably play to his strengths.

“But if we’re ever going to have a go round Aintree now is the time, because he’s in really good form and he loves good ground.

“He gets stuck in the mud in very soft ground, so his season fell part last year for various reasons. But he’s bounced back, and we’re looking as though we might go in that direction.”

On the same card as the Becher, Lord Du Mesnil is set to return to action over fences at a shorter trip in the William Hill Grand Sefton Chase.

Trainer Richard Hobson is looking forward to putting the seven-year-old back over bigger obstacles after his seasonal debut over hurdles at Kelso this month.

Hobson initially had the National Hunt Chase runner-up entered in the Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle, won by a resurgent Yorkhill on Saturday, but took him out because conditions were not soft enough.

“The ground (was) good at Newcastle, so he’ll probably run in the Grand Sefton next week – that’s where he’ll be heading,” said the Gloucestershire handler.

“He’s come on for his run over hurdles, but he was taken on that day on his comeback run. That got him beat, on quickish ground on a sharpish track.

“It’s made him come on a bit for it, and chasing’s his game. He’ll strip fitter for next time.”