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Sam’s Adventure digs deep in Eider

Sam’s Adventure provided local trainer Brian Ellison with a popular win in the Vertem Eider Handicap Chase at Newcastle.

North-east native Ellison, who was born on Northumberland Plate day, had already celebrated one big prize this season with his staying chaser, who won the Tommy Whittle at Haydock.

Unusually run in spring-like conditions this season, it certainly made for an enjoyable contest with half a dozen or more still in with a chance turning for home.

Springfield Fox had made the running, tracked by The Dutchman who was still going well when unseating Sean Quinlan just before the final bend.

Cyclop, previous winner Crosspark and Salty Boy were all in with a chance, but it was Sam’s Adventure and Crossley Tender who pulled clear.

Henry Brooke appeared to have done everything right on Sam’s Adventure, but when he got in tight to the last the 15-2 chance appeared to have thrown it away.

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But to his credit Sam’s Adventure battled back and got home by three-quarters of length.

Having shown stamina is not an issue, Sam’s Adventure will have the Grand National as his aim next season – but he will not run again in this campaign.

“I thought we’d lost it at the last, I must admit,” said Ellison.

“Henry actually said it probably helped him as he didn’t want to be in front that long, but he had no option to go when he did.

“He’s been such a good horse for us. That’s his second decent pot this year, he won a decent prize at Uttoxeter last season and also won a valuable bumper at Newbury.

“He didn’t jump hurdles great, but he’s far better over fences, he’s quite clever.

“He won’t run in the Midlands National. He’s on holiday now, he’s done enough this season. The target next year might be the Grand National – if Julie (Martin, joint-owner with her husband, Phil) let’s me!

“He’ll have a nice long break, we’ll start him off about Christmas with the aim of the National, because he’s so laid back it will take him a race to get back into it.”

Ellison came very close to winning the Northumberland Plate in 2016 with Seamour who shot clear but was caught close home by Antiquarium and admitted to having a flashback.

“I could see the other horse still going well, but when we jumped the second-last I thought we’d won. Of course he then blew the last and I thought ‘not again’.

“It’s great for Phil and Julie, though, because one of their other horses, Forest Bihan, was supposed to run today but got injured this morning and that might be it for him, he might not run again.”

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.

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.