Ante-post favourite Sharp Response heads 24 contenders for Saturday’s Vertem Eider Chase at Newcastle.
Sue Smith’s charge was a comfortable winner of the North Yorkshire National at Catterick on his most recent start, having finished fourth to the reopposing Daklondike on heavy ground at Haydock on his penultimate outing.
Ground conditions look set to be very different at the weekend, with the going currently reported to be good to soft – a factor which has scuppered Warren Greatrex’s potential plan to run Missed Approach and Jammin Masters.
Missed Approach finished sixth in the Becher Chase at Aintree on his most recent start and has an outing at Kelso as alternative option on the way to the Randox Health Grand National.
Greatrex said: “There is the Premier Chase at Kelso which we might look at a week later, but again he is not 100 per cent to go there.
“If he doesn’t run in those, he will go straight to Aintree without a run, but we will play it by ear.”
Jammin Masters has finished second on each of his three outings this term, most recently at Newcastle last month, but Greatrex admits he needs testing ground to show his best.
He said: “If he is going to win a big race, then it will need to be really soft. He is in on Friday at Exeter and Chepstow on Saturday.
“If the rain comes then he could be a Midlands National horse.”
While the Greatrex pair miss out, the Henry Daly-trained Back To The Thatch and last year’s first and second, Baywing (Nicky Richards) and West Of The Edge (Dr Richard Newland), are among the possibles for the extended four-mile heat.
Ireland could provide a three-strong challenge, with the Gordon Elliott-trained Folsom Blue, Gavin Cromwell’s Raz De Maree and Kilkishen from John Hanlon’s yard all in the mix.