Published 14 February
SHARP RESPONSE is shaping up to be another classy staying chaser from the Sue Smith yard and has his chance on the big stage in the Vertem Eider Handicap Chase.
The stamina-laden 8yo, half-brother to Scottish National runner-up Ballyoptic, remains open to further improvement stepping up to 4m for the first time having won three of his nine starts over fences.
He also gained valuable experience of the stiff Gosforth Park obstacles when a close-up fourth over 3m in the Rehearsal Chase in December, unsurprisingly doing his best work at the finish.
That was on soft ground, which he had already proved he could handle, yet his overall form suggests he prefers a quicker surface - witness his Carlisle win and two Catterick triumphs over the past 12 months. The weather forecast is encouraging on that front.
The gelding made the most of a drop in grade when scoring comfortably under a big weight over 3m6f at the latter track last time, the 6lb rise incurred bringing him up to 140 - the same mark as last year’s winner Baywing.
Favourite in most lists is Back To The Thatch, who was among the leading fancies for last year’s renewal and still going well when falling, although it was too far out to predict how he might have fared.
That was on heavy ground though and trainer Henry Daly has said he needs plenty of cut, so he might need the weather forecast to be wrong if he’s to build on his second in a 3m4f handicap at Haydock last time.
Recommended Bet (scale 1-5 points):
Vertem Eider Handicap Chase, Newcastle 23 February
1pt each way SHARP RESPONSE ( 16-1 general )
Randox Health Grand National at Aintree on 6th April
1pt each way ROCK THE KASBAH ( 33-1 )
Gary provides regular ante-post updates on Twitter. His username is @horsetraderinfo.@horsetraderinfo