WHEN the going gets tough, the tough get going – that old adage could well be the case in today’s Betfred Eider Chase at Newcastle.
This afternoon’s Gosforth Park highlight, run over four miles and one furlong on testing ground, will be a gruelling affair, but it will not faze Sun Cloud, who proved himself a long-distance specialist at Catterick last month.
The Ryedale gelding, trained by Malcolm Jefferson, won the North Yorkshire Grand National in tremendous style, powering away from his rivals in the closing stages over the three-and-three-quarter-mile test.
Another three furlongs and deeper ground should not inconvenience Sun Cloud, who had also won his previous race at Hexham.
This, though, will be the most challenging and daunting exam he has faced, given that the handicapper has raised him 12lb for his Catterick win.
Royale Knight, Relax and Smoking Aces are just three of his rivals who pose serious threats, but Sun Cloud is an up-and-coming marathon performer – and this is his chance to prove himself in smart company for a first prize of more than £37,000.
Jefferson has chances of another winner on the card, courtesy of Oleohneh in the closing bumper. Although a beaten favourite at Catterick last time, she looked pretty good on her debut when winning on this course.
Grate Fella gets the nap vote in the Betfred Handicap Hurdle over two miles.
A Catterick winner at the Christmas meeting, Sue Smith’s likeable gelding was far from disgraced when third over a slightly longer distance at Market Rasen next time. There is more to come from him, especially over this shorter trip.
Sheriff Hutton-based Mark Walford, seeking his first winner since taking over the training licence from his father Tim, has every chance of breaking his duck with Fentara in the Betfred TV Handicap Chase.
Runner-up on her last two starts, Fentara produced a particularly respectable display when finding only Golden Call too strong at Doncaster earlier in the month. She is fancied to go one better.
Tim Easterby has a couple of useful-looking chances with his hurdlers, Getabuzz and Dark Dune.
Winner of his last two races at Catterick and Sedgefield, Getabuzz (3.25) will have a useful 7lb taken off his back by the riding allowance of Craig Nichol, while Dark Dune (3.55), who unseated his rider after being badly hampered at Catterick last time, had previously shown enough form to suggest a minor race was within his compass.
At Kempton’s classy card, all eyes will be on Irving as he bids to extend his unbeaten record in the Sky Bet Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle.
Paul Nicholls’ gelding has looked good winning twice at Ascot and at Taunton and will need to follow up here to justify his prominent position in the market for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham next month.
Balder Succes, trained by Alan King, won in Grade 2 company at Warwick a couple of weeks ago. He has good prospects of following up under Wayne Hutchinson in the BetBright Moble Pendil Novices’ Chase, another Grade 2 affair.
Also worth noting at Kempton are the consistent and progressive Present View (1.30) and the potentially useful Alcala (2.05), who is thrown in at the deep end on his debut for Nicholls after looking pretty smart in two runs in France.
1.50 Edmund Kean, 2.20 Grate Fella (NAP), 2.55 Sun Cloud, 3.25 Getabuzz, 3.55 Dark Dune, 4.30 Fentara, 5.00 Oleohneh.
1.30 Present View, 2.05 Alcala, 2.40 Balder Succes, 3.15 Irving, 3.50 Midnight Appeal, 4.25 Royal Player, 4.55 Aqalim.
Today’s other meetings: Chepstow and Lingfield.
Tomorrow’s meetings: Fontwell and Towcester.