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Eider Chase preview

Newcastle's big Chase of the season takes place tomorrow, the grinding Eider Chase, a long old slog which seems to have been run on bottomless ground regularly in recent years. Not so tomorrow, Chris Day, @chrisday100, with the preview.

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Betfred Eider Chase
£70,000 4m1f Newcastle

The Eider Chase is traditionally one of the most gruelling tests of the jump season, historically run on heavy ground at Newcastle in mid February and for many years was recognised Grand National trial.

This card may not house the Aintree winner for this year but, as a stand alone race, provides some good quality stuff to get our teeth stuck into from a betting perspective with a full field of 18 declared on unusually good to soft ground.

Emma Lavelle's top weight, Shotgun Paddy, winner of last year's Classic Chase at Warwick, is a deserving favourite, having followed a disappointing effort in the Welsh National over Christmas with a strong staying third in this year's version of the Warwick highlight in early January. Well handicapped and probably with room for improvement but the suspicion remains that very soft ground may be essential in order for him to show his best form.

Similar comments apply to last year's winner, Wyck Hill, who still looks on a fair mark and is a sure stayer but could get done for a turn of foot on drying ground.

Next in the weights, Portrait King, won this race three years ago from a 9lbs lower mark and seems in top form at the moment. He operates on good ground but, as a 10 year old, the worrying thing is that he's not a regular winner.

Knockandrawley ground out a victory at Newbury last time for a resurgent Kim Bailey and should be well suited to tomorrow's conditions. He's run well in big fields and promises to stay but a 7lbs higher mark for beating only six others last time tempers enthusiasm.

Brian Ellison runs his recently acquired Herdsman, who failed by only a neck to overhaul Scotswell in similar conditions at Catterick last time and can be fancied to reverse that form now that he seems back in form. Presumably aimed at this race on the trainer's favourite course, there aren't many better at readying one for the big day but he does face a rise in class here.

Milborough has claims but may prefer a softer surface, Count Guido Deiro is just the sort his trainer excels with, lightly raced and stepping up in trip, Woodford County promises to enjoy the test but has to jump better to maintain his place in a bigger field, Beforeall could improve over the extra distance with a good claimer booked and Summery Justice, if anything, may need further on this going.

Fill The Power deserves his place here and is back to his last winning mark and should stay, Sharney Sike won over the course last time but doesn't want to get involved in a battle for the lead here, Rattlin looks to have her share of weight on what she's achieved but presumably is expected to relish the extra distance, Wicklow Lad looks weighted up to his best but Neptune Equester has always threatened to be suited to extreme distances and has been rested since winning in early December over four miles. The question is whether he can cope with a 10lbs hike.

The one I've fancied ever since the entries were made on Monday is Alpha Victor, 2lbs lower than for his brave second to an exceptionally well handicapped animal in Goulanes in last year's Midlands National. He had Summery Justice, Wyck Hill and Fill The Power a respectful distance behind at Uttoxeter and, with four of his five victories coming this side of Christmas, should presumably be cherry ripe now.

His second in a hurdle race off a 5lbs higher mark to Pertemps favourite, Join The Clan, over three miles at Wetherby is smart form which has already been advertised but surely this has been the aim all season and ground conditions will be no hindrance either.

Fancy prices have been hoovered up but I can find no real negatives and can't have him out of the money.

To follow him home, I'll take Neptune Equester and Count Guido Deiro.

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