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.
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.”
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