Crosspark’s proven stamina is fuelling high hopes for connections in the Coral Scottish Grand National.
Caroline Bailey’s Eider winner has not run since his dour staying performance at Newcastle in January, and his trainer is anticipating another big performance over four miles at Ayr.
The task facing Crosspark, and 26 remaining rivals, was made a little easier on Saturday morning when Nicky Henderson pulled out his well-backed top-weight Beware The Bear because of concerns about the quick ground.
Saved for this this weekend’s feature since his Gosforth Park exertions, Crosspark has been pleasing his trainer at home of late.
Bailey said: “He seems to be in as good form as I can have him.
“We gave him plenty of time to get over Newcastle, and have brought him back with this intention.
“Not many have proved they stay four miles, but he has, so with luck in running, hopefully he’ll go well.”
Crosshue Boy was a winner at this meeting 12 months ago when beating Alan King’s Dingo Dollar, one of the favourites for the Ayr marathon.
While his trainer Sean Doyle only has two horses in his care, he has been planning his return trip to Scotland for some time.
“He won at the meeting last year and this looks a wide-open Scottish National, he’s going there with every chance,” said Doyle.
“The ground is key to him – he’s a much better horse on better ground so we’ve been planning around this since Christmas.
“I’m not worried about the trip, last year he proved he stayed pretty well.”
Dingo Dollar finished third in the Ladbrokes Trophy easier in the season and second in the Grimthorpe Chase last time out.
He is another for whom this race has always been the target.
King told his website: “This has been Dingo Dollar’s target since he ran such an excellent race to finish third in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury in early December.
“That day he produced a solid front-running performance, jumping superbly and understandably finishing the race looking tired as we could have done without the rain that made the ground as testing as he could handle.
“Since then, we have very much had to plan the road to Ayr around the weather forecast, but I was really pleased with his comeback second at Doncaster last month, and that race has put him spot on for this with the ground seemingly coming in our favour this time.”
Dingo Dollar was beaten by Chidswell in the Grimthorpe Chase, yet Nicky Richards’ 10-year-old is one of the outsiders on this occasion with a 7lb rise to overcome.
“I was doubtful whether he’d stay three and a quarter at Doncaster so that will be the issue once more, but unless you try you don’t know,” said Richards.
“He certainly wasn’t stopping last time, he galloped right through the line and the horse he beat is favourite.
“He’ll love the ground and if he gets into a rhythm he’ll run a nice race.”
Richards also runs Takingrisks, winner of a veterans’ race at Carlisle last time out.
“The old boy is in grand fettle and it’s similar with him – if he gets into a rhythm early on he’ll run well,” said Richards.
“He goes on any ground, he’s won on heavy but good won’t stop him.”
Hopes for the home team rest with Lucinda Russell’s Big River, fourth in the Cheltenham race won by Beware The Bear, and Sandy Thomson’s lightly-raced Geronimo ridden by Rachael McDonald.
“I’m not quite sure how we’ve got here,” said Thomson.
“He arrived 16 months ago as a big lump and I thought he might make a point-to-pointer and here we are.
“Obviously, the worry is he has only had eight runs. He’s been doing things nicely, but this is a bit different.
“He’ll go on the ground, I think he goes on anything, and he’ll stay the trip, but it’s whether he is quick enough to keep up. We’ll find out.”
He added: “If he can keep up, he’s got a shout of being thereabouts. It might be too much of a dream thinking he can win, because when he arrived nothing much was expected of him.”
Beware The Bear’s defection was announced mid-morning, after Henderson walked the course and decided not to risk his Cheltenham Festival winner.
He tweeted: “Beware The Bear is a non runner in today’s Scottish Grand National owing to the ground. I’ve just walked the course and it’s pretty quick out there.”