Newcastle Race Preview, 27/02/2021

Newcastle, Saturday 27th February

Newcastle 3.15
Vertem Eider Handicap Chase Class 2
4m1f56y – Going: Soft (Good to Soft in places) – 12 runners

Crosspark*
Won the Eider in 2019, collared Mysteree in the last 100 yards, pair clear; was then runner-up to Takingrisks in that year’s Scottish Grand National, led 3 out, driven, headed 2 out, stayed on, still half a chance last, hard driven and weakened last 100 yards. Has become familiar with 2nd, having filled that place all four runs this season, notably in London National at Sandown in December,  tracked leaders when mistake 3 out (normally 4 out), pushed along after, hard ridden and led under pressure after omitted 3 out, was half a length up when in close to 2 out, headed between last 2, couldn’t match Doing Fine approaching last and 2 lengths down jumping, hard driven and closed on winner last 150 yards but never getting there; and last time out in the Veterans’ Final, edged closer approaching 3 out, mistake 2 out, hard ridden, finally got a clear run under pressure on inner before mistake last, stayed on under strong pressure to take 2nd 150 yards out, perhaps closing a little on Seeyouatmidnight last strides but never getting there. Obvious chance
The Dutchman
Good form last two, at Haydock in December in a Veterans’ Qualifier was 2 to 3 lengths up last but was gradually reeled in and headed by Late Romantic in a slow-motion finish, then last time in Rowland Meyrick at Wetherby on Boxing Day led at a medium pace, moved comfortably home turn, just beginning to be niggled when fell 4 out. Would have been 4th at worst, possibly better, though unlikely to have won given the style marks with which Canelo took that; his claims to being able to stay an extreme trip consist solely of his exploits in the 2018 Grand National, chased leaders 6th, had been shuffled back a little final circuit, nudged along in prominent-to-midfield position when unseated rider 23rd (2nd Foinavon) – he seemed fairly comfortable at the time, albeit further back than he was earlier in the race. This is worth a try
Sam’s Adventure*
Progressing chaser won Tommy Whittle at Haydock in December,  lost ground after 1st and ridden along/reminder, raced inner, shuffled back and midfield 3rd, mistake 6th, not fluent 8th and niggled along, headway 11th and tracked leaders, niggled along from 4 out, chased leader, half a length down 3 out, pushed along, upsides 2 out, stayed on under a ride and led approaching last, driven out, stayed on well run-in to beat Sojourn and reopposing Salty Boy; was running similarly well when departing in Peter Marsh at Haydock last time out, headway and tracked leaders when mistake and unseated rider 12th – doing okay at the time, he may well have been placed (although the win would have been stretching it given the manner of Royale Pagaille’s victory). He shaped like one who’d do well over an extreme trip when he won at Uttoxeter on the Midlands National undercard back in March, and the form he’s been in, it’s worth putting it to the test
Big River
All but one of this one’s wins have been at Kelso, including only success last season which was in January 2020,  led 2 out, stayed on under a ride to dispute lead approaching last, was bumped jumping, hard driven, drew clear of Ami Desbois (runner-up to Beau Bay in the veterans’ at Doncaster earlier this week) in the last 200 yards; better effort when 3rd to The Conditional in Ultima Handicap at the Cheltenham Festival,  jumped the last 4 lengths down, sustained effort up the hill, no extra close home and nearest finish. No form this season with best of two runs in Welsh Grand National at Chepstow in January, towards rear and soon niggled, a little ground before took off too early 17th, steadied into and hit 18th, vigorously ridden along, some 12 lengths back under a push and a lot to do approaching 5 out, making no ground when blundered badly 4 out, well back 3 out, no impression from 2 out, kept on from last and nearly took distant 7th last few strides, beaten 19 lengths behind Secret Reprieve. This isn’t as deep a race and it’s over further – the going may well dry out as there’s no rain in the forecast, but this one could well turn up late
Springfield Fox
Went into last year’s National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival as a progressive type, having made all at Exeter for the second of two novice chase wins, but it didn’t go very well, mistake 9th and headed, 1st 2 not so far ahead 10th, was bumped 12th, mistake and unseated rider 16th. Only form this season when 2nd in an ordinary three-runner novice hurdle at Chepstow in December, stayed on under a firm hand ride approaching 2 out, at most half a length up there, hard ridden, readily headed approaching last, soon well held, some 3 or 4 lengths behind last, kept on, 2nd to Oscar Elite (beaten 20 lengths or more both runs since),  beaten just over 5 lengths. Failed to complete both runs since, in Welsh Grand National at Chepstow blundered 16th, rear 18th, in last trio when reminders turning out of back straight, tailing off when eased down and pulled up before 5 out, and at Wincanton last time niggled along approaching 3rd, mistake 9th, pushed along 10th, headway before in close to 12th and reminders, lost place and in last pair 13th under a push, weakened further after 4 out and eased down/pulled up on the home turn behind Time To Get Up. David Bass riding here is a positive, but hard to fancy strongly on what he’s been doing
Cyclop
Continued a great run this season – having already taken a handicap chase and handicap hurdle at Chepstow, and run 2nd to Who’s In The Box in Lincolnshire National at Market Rasen – when winning a 0-125 handicap chase at Plumpton, always 1st 2, pair pulled clear from 14th, travelled comfortably 3 out, moved best of the leading pair home turn, pushed along and pulled clear from 2 out, stayed on well, in no danger last, unchallenged by 20 lengths from Young Turk. In a better race, best work at the end when 3rd to Dawson City in Somerset National at Wincanton last month, dropped rear 8th, mistake then hampered/rider nearly unseated 10th, headway after 16th, pushed along and midfield approaching 4 out, hard driven off home turn, steadied into and mistake 3 out, hard ridden in 5th and looked held approaching 2 out, took 4th there under pressure but still didn’t look to have any chance with those ahead, kept on and took 3rd last 150 yards, no impression on 1st 2. Stamina is what this one’s all about and a good early gallop in the Somerset National – with 12 to 15 lengths 1st to last approaching the 6th – took him off his legs from the getgo, and with the mistakes as well he did well to get 3rd out of it; this is his stiffest task in terms of class, but the trip might give him a chance
Crossley Tender*
Fourth win this season, and second at the track, when going in at Exeter on January 10th, headway on inner when steadied into and mistake 14th (not a lot of room), prominent when niggled along home turn, tracked leaders going comfortably approaching 4 out, ridden into it, shaken up, a length and a half down when better jump than leader 3 out and soon drew upsides, moved best of the field approaching 2 out, hard ridden between last 2, asserted approaching last, led 3 to 4 lengths jumping, ridden out and soon drew further clear, workmanlike and unchallenged from Samuel Jackson; in a better race ran as well at Ascot next time on January 23rd, rear, passed a couple and midfield when mistakes 11th and 12th, outpaced 4 out, ridden with 12 to 15 lengths to find approaching home turn, started to stay on well approaching 2 out and closed on those ahead, continued to close between last 2, disputed 3rd last, hard driven, sustained effort and took 3rd 175 yards out, was gaining on the 2nd last strides, held on well in battle for 3rd, nearest finish, beaten just over 5 lengths behind Enqarde and Cobolobo. How much better would that have been with a decent round of jumping – it might be that he comes with risks here, but the Ascot run suggested that he has it in him to win again this season
Salty Boy
Yet to win for current connections but a couple of good efforts the last twice, in Tommy Whittle at Haydock in December 6 lengths 3rd to Sam’s Adventure, closing on the 2nd last 100 yards, and arguably bettered that in Sussex National over 3m4f at Plumpton last month, rominent, nudged along away from 3rd, not fluent 6th, in close to 10th and niggled away from it, niggled again from 14th, losing ground under a push when not fluent 3 out, ridden along turning out of back straight, hard driven home turn, well held 2 out, kept on a bit between last 2, some 10 lengths back when not fluent last, continued to keep on run-in and closed on the 4th but not quite get the place, 6th to Seaston Spirit beaten just short of 6 lengths. Not out of this
Strong Economy
This one’s had 21 starts under Rules: 20 of them have been at Ayr, which has got to be some sort of record – the other was at Perth. Lines up on a hattrick, and very much did his best work at the end last time at, guess where, Ayr on January 18th over 3m3f, ridden and outpaced from 18th, well back 4 out, ridden along, stayed on and gradually closed on leaders from 3 out, had 6 lengths to find last, hard driven, stayed on strongly, reeled in Buddha Scheme, led 75 yards out, going away at the line. There must be a danger that the horse will be phased by running somewhere other than Ayr, but if that’s not the case, the way he finished last time – over the longest trip he’s tried so far – suggests that the even longer trip here might suit him well
Haul Us In
Proven on heavy ground and over 2m7f; successful chasing debut at Uttoxeter in January, made most, moved comfortably home turn, niggled along from 4 out, drew clear going to 3 out, some 5 lengths up there, pushed along and continued to stay on, some 8 to 10 lengths up 2 out, in no danger and 12 to 15 lengths up last, not hard ridden to maintain advantage run-in, readily and unchallenged from The Toojumpa; only other form when 2nd over 2m4f at Newcastle in March, headed approaching 3 out, still every chance there though not going nearly as well as She’sasupermack from there to 2 out as pair pulled well clear, found extra under a ride and led approaching last, steadied into it, headed, outpaced run-in. Only start this season, was a poor 6th at Bangor in November,  lost place and midfield/niggled along approaching 6th, struggling in midfield and firmly pushed along after 12th, looked held 3 out, weakened home turn, tailed off 2 out, no more, trailed in behind Tea Time On Mars – well below herself, beaten before the trip was an issue. Hasn’t been out since. Not coming here in any sort of form, this looks a tough task from out of the weights
Little Red Lion
Unbeaten when completing this season, although the second of his three wins was decidedly fortunate, in a 0-120 handicap at Taunton on December 30th,  closer order approaching 11th, pushed along away from 12th, in close to 13th, pushed along approaching 4 out, not a lot of room and bumped rival there, effort and chased leader under a ride turning out of back straight, stayed on and led approaching 3 out, hard driven and pulled 2 lengths clear before jumped low 2 out, stayed on under pressure, changed legs between last 2, headed nearing last, one pace run-in under pressure till Oski veered badly left 50 yards out and then left in front, held on with little to spare – hard work on the final circuit prior to being gifted the race close home, beat Broadclyst 3/4 length. Fell next time at Wetherby, midfield and closing on those ahead when fell 5 out – was looking like he was going to get into things at the time in race won by Another Emotion, but last time out travelled a bit better when fitted with blinkers over hurdles at Chepstow, prominent home turn, tracked leaders straightening, further ground to chase leader when in close to 3 out, wandered right but stuck to task under pressure between last 2, led approaching last and driven out with nothing to spare from Le Tueur (who was off a rating of 97). Yet to race in anything better than Class 4, this looks an impossible task
Friends Don’t Ask
First ever win when going in over 3m5f in a 0-110 handicap at Fakenham on November 30th, led 19th, niggled along, disputed it bend after 3 out, pushed along approaching 2 out and led, was challenged approaching home turn, put under pressure, disputed lead straightening, led a neck jumping last, driven out, found extra last 100 yards, pulled well clear close home to beat Strictlyadancer just over 5 lengths (runner-up off an official rating of 109). Clearly stays well but, running from 27 lbs out of the handicap, a frame-finish here isn’t going to happen

Shortlist: Crosspark, Sam’s Adventure, Crossley Tender