Ben Haslam is hoping Irish import Rock On Fruity can continue his fine season for owner J P McManus in the Vertem Eider Handicap Chase at Newcastle.
The Middleham trainer has had a tidy stream of winners in the famous green and gold colours – with Rock On Fruity scoring twice, both on this course, since moving over from Charles Byrnes’ County Limerick yard in the autumn.
“I think he’ll go for the Eider. All is good. He’s come out of that last race well,” said Haslam.
“It will be his first time over that trip, so it will all depend whether he stays.
“I don’t have a real problem with the ground. If anything, drying ground will probably help him stay a little bit.
“There is going to be no jar in the ground – it’s going to be on the easy side of good. I think it will be genuine good to soft, so it will be safe for everyone and might not suit the ones that want a real test.”
A small amount of rain fell on the course on Tuesday night – but with little or no more forecast up to Saturday, clerk of the course James Armstrong may do some selective watering to prevent conditions drying out too much.
“We had three millimetres of rain overnight,” he said.
“It’s not a huge amount – but at this time of year it doesn’t take a huge amount for the ground to ease a bit.
“Generally we’re good to soft. We’re probably a little bit easier on the back straight, with elements of soft ground there. There are a few areas in the last three and a half furlongs which are heading towards good ground by the end of today.”
A watching brief and contingency plan are therefore in order – a surreal situation for this winter fixture, which is very often run on heavy ground.
Armstrong added: “We’re just going to monitor things. If we were racing on the turf today, it would be absolutely spot on.
“However, we’ve got a few more dry days to come. Temperatures are mild, hovering around 14C today, 13C tomorrow and then no higher than 11C or 12C on Saturday.
“I’m not ruling out putting a little bit of water, two millimetres, on the home straight to keep it at good to soft. There’s no more rain forecast at the moment.
“We would water either on Thursday morning or Friday. We’re not necessarily going to do it – but if things dry out we might put a splash on to stop it getting any quicker than good to soft.”