The Eider Chase at Newcastle is one of the big races in the North-Eastern racing calendar. The last Irish winner of this famous race was This Is Serious back in 2002 for Charlie Swan and the progressive Portrait King would have been the selection on soft ground, but the grey’s best form is with plenty of cut in the ground and he is reluctantly overlooked with the forecast good ground a worry.
The nod goes to Captain Americo (3.25) who can finally come good having flattered to deceive on more than one occasion over fences, but the selection will appreciate underfoot conditions and looks to have been laid out for the race by astute handler James Ewart.
Mr Syntax (2.20 Newcastle) is a horse I have been looking out for since his Bangor reappearance back in November when, seemingly, in need of the run. His subsequent absence from the track is a slight concern but, as long as the ground isn’t too fast, he can give a good account and a market move would be worth noting (he drifted at Bangor). There are any number of dangers including Time Out who has won his last three and is only 3lbs higher than when scoring at Sedgefield when last seen back in January.
Before his Warwick win I always had Frascati Park (4.35) down as someone who needed to go right-handed but his jumping was excellent at the Midlands track and he kept finding from the front to beat Alfie Spinner who ran such a cracker in the Reynoldstown Chase at Ascot last weekend.
The big betting race from Kempton is the Racing Plus Chase with exciting front-running grey Nacarat looking to buck his recent trend in the race having finished 1st in 2009, 2nd in 2010 and third in 2011!
The horse has not been at his best so far this season but he will bounce off this ground and is 2lb lower than last year. He comes alive at Kempton and he and top-weight Planet Of Sound are much respected but preference is for the lightly raced Michel Le Bon (3.05) despite the concerns over the well-being of the Paul Nicholls stable.
The selection has not been out since running down the field, but with considerable promise, in the Hennessy and he remains unexposed and open to considerable improvement.
The Adonis Hurdle which opens the card invariably goes to a top class juvenile with Binocular and Zarkandar amongst the recent winners. Dildar represents the Nicholls stable and will have to jump more fluently than he did at Taunton on debut, but he showed a rare turn of foot and it will be a fascinating contest if he can keep tabs on Sadler’s Risk (2.00). The recommendation was a very decent handicapper on the flat and made a very impressive debut over C&D last month; he is likely to make it a true test and although he may need further in time he can go into next month’s Triumph unbeaten.
Grumeti (3.40) who won a valuable prize in the Cheltenham Stewards’ room last time bypasses the juvenile hurdle to take on his elders in the Grade 2 Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle and Alan King’s charge can win again.
A more speculative selection is Cool Friend (2.30) who faces her easiest task for some while in the 2m 4f Handicap Chase for inform Jeremy Scott. Hunt Ball has won five of his last six and is a big danger but he is 10lb higher than when winning on soft ground last weekend and the handicapper just may have his measure.
There are also Triumph Hurdle clues on the other side of the Irish Sea with Minsk making his eagerly anticipated debut for Dessie Hughes at Fairyhouse. The horse is reported to be a natural and long term targets include the Melbourne Cup back on the level in November.