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Crosspark still at height of powers for Eider defence

Caroline Bailey is confident Crosspark is as good as ever as he prepares to defend his Eider Chase crown off top weight at Newcastle.

The 11-year-old won the last running of the Vertem-sponsored handicap by just a neck in 2019, defeating Michael Scudamore’s Mysteree, and is vying for favouritism in this year’s renewal.

Crosspark has not tasted victory since, with a repeat performance in 2020 ruled out when the fixture was abandoned, but he was second in the 2019 Scottish Grand National and has also finished runner-up in all of four outings this season – no more than a length behind the winner on each occasion.

“He’s been in as good a form as ever,” said his trainer.

“You can’t knock the horse at all – he tries his little heart out.

“I’m very happy with him. He had a little break after Sandown (runner-up in the veterans’ final early last month), and we freshened him up.”

Tristan Davidson’s The Dutchman also lines up this weekend, having last been seen taking a late when leading into the straight in the Grade Three Rowland Meyrick Handicap Chase at Wetherby on Boxing Day.

Davidson reports the 11-year-old, winner of the 2018 Peter Marsh Chase when with Colin Tizzard, to be in good form at home.

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Davidson is hopeful rather than certain he will handle this extended trip, however.

The Cumbria trainer said: “He’s well – Sean Quinlan came and schooled him the other day, and he schooled well.

“We’re hoping for a big race. He was unlucky at Wetherby, but that’s racing – he was going well that day.

“The ground won’t bother him at all. I just hope he stays four miles one (furlong), that’s my only doubt.”

Tom George is represented by Springfield Fox, who will run in cheekpieces after being pulled up in both the Welsh Grand National and on his subsequent appearance in the Dick Hunt Chase at Wincanton.

George said: “It’s been a bit frustrating for him this season – because he had a good run over hurdles, and then in the Welsh National he was always going one stride quicker than he wanted to.

Springfield Fox ridden by Jonathan Burke jumps the last to score at Chepstow Racecourse
Springfield Fox and Jonathan Burke jump the last to score at Chepstow (Simon Cooper/PA)

“We needed to run him again, and the same thing happened at Wincanton.

“I’d like to think a pair of cheekpieces will sharpen him up, and he shouldn’t be out of his comfort zone over four and a quarter miles.”

Lucinda Russell’s Big River also takes his chance, having finished eighth in the Welsh National in January.

Russell considers the 11-year-old to be in better shape than he was before that run, and expects him to be suited by the marathon trip.

“He ran a good race in the Welsh National, and I think he’s better now than he was before then,” she said.

“They’re probably his sort of conditions. Four miles is his sort of trip – and if the ground is soft enough he could run a big race.”

Grand National-winning trainer Lucinda Russell has two chances in the Eider Chase
Grand National-winning trainer Lucinda Russell has two chances in the Eider Chase (Ian Rutherford/PA)

Russell has also entered outsider Haul Us In, absent since finishing sixth at Bangor in November and who runs from 4lb out of the handicap but has Blair Campbell’s claim offsetting 3lb of that off bottom weight.

Russell said: “She’s been unfortunate – she’s missed a few races because of the weather.

“Ideally she’d have run at least another once, if not twice, before coming into this race.

“We decided this was going to be our aim for her for this season.

“We’ve been brave and put the entry in and tried to get her as right as we can at home. She’s probably got a chance at a big price.”

Brian Ellison’s Sam’s Adventure heads the market, with David Bridgwater’s Salty Boy and Matt Sheppard’s Cyclop also at the top end of the betting.

Paul Henderson runs Crossley Tender, with David Pipe’s Little Red Lion, Ian Duncan’s Strong Economy and Martin Smith’s Friends Don’t Ask completing the field of 12.

Eider Chase Trends

The Eider Chase is run over a gruelling 4m1f trip at Newcastle racecourse and is a handicap race that is seen as another key Grand National trial ahead of the big Liverpool race the following month. In recent years the David Pipe-trained Comply Or Die (2008) is the most recent example of the winner of this race going onto land the Merseyside Marathon that same season.

Did You Know – 14 of the last 16 winners were aged 10 or younger, while 11 of the last 16 successful horses were Irish bred.

Here at GEEGEEZ we take a look back at recent winners and give you all the key trends and stats to take into the 2021 renewal – this year run on Saturday 27th February.

 

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Recent Eider Chase Winners

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2020 - No Race
2019 – CROSSPARK (12/1)
2018 – BAYWING (8/1)
2017 - BAYWING (8/1)
2017 – MYSTEREE (10/1)
2016 – ROCKING BLUES  (8/1)
2015 – MILBOROUGH (18/1)
2014 – WYCK HILL (9/1)
2013 – No Race
2012 – PORTRAIT KING (11/4fav)
2011 – COMPANERO (16/1)
2010 – No Race
2009 – MERIGO (5/1)
2008 – COMPLY OR DIE (11/1)
2007 – NIL DESPERANDUM (6/1)
2006 – PHILSON RUN (10/1)
2005 – No Race
2004 – TYNEANDTHYNEAGAIN (28/1)
2003 – No Race
2002 – THIS IS SERIOUS (4/1 fav)
2001 – NARROW WATER (6/1)
2000 -  SCOTTON GREEN (8/1)

 

Key Eider Chase Betting Trends

16/16 – Had won over at least 3m before
14/16 – Aged 10 or younger
13/16 – Carried 10-13 or more
13/16 – Priced 12/1 or shorter in the betting
12/16 – Had raced within the last 6 weeks
11/16 – Irish-bred
11/16 – Winners came from the top 3 in the betting
11/16 – Winning distance – 4 lengths or less
11/16 – Placed in the top 4 last time out
10/16 – Officially rated between 131-140
10/16 – Aged either 8 or 9 years-old
8/16 – Placed favourites
5/16 – Won last time out
5/16 – Won over 3m4f or further before
3/16 – Carried 11-12 in weight
2/16 – Winning favourites
2/16 – Irish-trained winners
Crosspark (12/1) won the race in 2019
The average winning SP in the last 16 runnings is 10/1

 

 

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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.

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.

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“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.”