IT HAS been a case of last man standing in recent weeks due to incessant rain contributing to bottomless ground, and this weekend’s Vertem Eider Chase looks set to be another war of attrition.
Arguably the most gruelling race in the National Hunt calendar over the 4m1f trip at Newcastle, this marathon is seen as another key Grand National trial ahead of the big Liverpool race next month. The David Pipe-trained Comply Or Die (2008) is the most recent example of the winner of this race going onto land the Merseyside showpiece that same season.
It is such a test that if you can find one that finishes the race, you will probably be in the money. So, there are better punting propositions tomorrow (Saturday) but two to consider are PRIME VENTURE and CALIPSO COLLONGES in what will be no place for the faint-hearted.
Trainer Olly Murphy has resisted the temptation to run the latter from out of the handicap in some classy affairs but has no such worries as the Eider has attracted a weak field despite a purse of £80k.
Evan Williams’ nine-year-old PRIME VENTURE may strip fitter since going down as favourite at Exeter last time out and will be looking to recapture the form that saw him finish fourth behind Potter’s Corner.
Intriguingly, unlike the Grand National, horses carrying a low weight have not fared that well in this race. Since 1997, horses carrying under 11st have won just five times compared to those shouldering 11st or more who have won 13 times (the race was abandoned in four years). Based on those stats we should be looking at something carrying 11st or more, and both fit that bill.
Punters will be eyeing a short-priced double at Lingfield, where GOOD EFFORT is the 7/4 favourite to win the Hever Sprint Stakes and BANGKOK the Winter Derby (8/11 favourite). The latter looked awesome when winning the Winter Derby Trial for Andrew Balding and Rob Hornby, who has to sit on the side-lines tomorrow (Saturday) as King Power Racing’s retained jockey Silvestre de Sousa is back from his winter stint in Hong Kong.
His biggest danger may well be John Gosden’s progressive four-year-old DUBAI WARRIOR, who impressively brushed aside his rivals at Chelmsford in November.
At Kempton, Colin Tizzard’s RESERVE TANK could be back in the winner’s enclosure after he was beaten at odds-on at Newbury on his last start back in November. He’s 9/4 favourite with Carrigill’s to win the Pendil Novices’ Chase with the drop back to two-and-a-half miles ideal.
SOLO makes his UK debut for Paul Nicholls in the Grade 2 Adonis Juvenile Hurdle, where he’s 13/8 and currently 14/1 in a red-hot Triumph Hurdle market. The Dovecote normally goes to a decent novice and WEST CORK is among the most exciting in this field but I’m keen on HIGHWAY ONE O TWO, who gave weight to all his rivals when claiming his second novices’ hurdle at Plumpton.
BENSON was a 66/1 roughie for a Listed race on his hurdles debut at Sandown three weeks ago but was in contention when unseating two from home, and the 8/1 shot can be a threat in this company.
Course and distance winner NONIOS returns to his favoured Chelmsford track tomorrow night and connections expect him to go close in the Class 2 handicap over 1m2f at 6.30pm.
Carrigill’s nap: (money back as a free bet if it finishes outside top four. Write Augur on your slip to qualify):
BENSON, Kempton, Saturday, 3.02.
Augur’s best bet:
NONIOS (e/w), Chelmsford, Saturday, 6.30.