By Chris Wilson
SOFTENING ground at Sandown is not good news for connections of the fit-again Ballycassidy ahead of the Racing Post Chase at Sandown tomorrow.
Peter Bowen’s charge is likely to need good ground if he is to show his best form in the Grade Three contest.
The 10-year-old finished a disappointing seventh in the King George VI Chase over course and distance before trailing home a weary third behind See You Sometime in the HBLB Cotswold Chase at Wincanton last time out.
But subsequent tests revealed the horse was struggling with a stomach ulcer, a problem which has now been eradicated. And with Ballycassidy finally back in prime condition, joint-owner Roddy Owen expects a bold bid in the three-mile contest.
"We’ve known there was something wrong with him the last two or three times and we found out that he had an ulcer in his stomach," said Owen.
"We’ve treated it now and he looks in fine shape and we're very happy with him - the only worry now is the ground.
"If the going was anything better than good to soft we’d have a great chance. But if the ground is heavy or sticky that would spoil his chances.
"His sheen is back in his coat, his eyes are burning brightly and he looks the part again."
The chase course at Sandown is currently soft, heavy in places, with a 7.30am precautionary inspection planned ahead of today’s fixture.
Meanwhile, John Quinn hopes Crow Wood’s return to the Flat at Lingfield tomorrow will set him up nicely for the Cheltenham Festival.
The versatile seven-year-old will take his chance in the betdirect.co.uk Winter Derby Trial Conditions Stakes before switching back to timber at Prestbury Park next month.
Crow Wood holds an entry in the Anglo Irish Bank Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and the Vincent O'Brien County Handicap Hurdle at the Festival, but Quinn is expecting a good run at Lingfield before that - despite being drawn widest of all in stall eight.
"He’s in good nick and if he was ever going to run before Cheltenham it was always the plan to go on the Flat," reported the Malton-based handler.
"There was no way we were going to go over hurdles again before the Festival. We can’t do anything about the draw but we’ll be getting a run into him, which is important."