Portrait King in frame for Betfred Eider double today

Maurice Phelan is confident Portrait King is in the form of his life as the Irish raider bids for a second victory in the Betfred Eider at Newcastle today.

Maurice Phelan is confident Portrait King is in the form of his life as the Irish raider bids for a second victory in the Betfred Eider at Newcastle today.

The 10-year-old became the first Irish-trained winner of the prestigious handicap chase for a decade when justifying 11-4 favouritism in 2012.

But after he finished down the field in the Scottish National two months later, Portrait King was sidelined by injury for over a year and a half.

Early results after his comeback suggested he may have been a spent force, but the grey has bounced back to form since the turn of the year, winning at Punchestown in early January before filling the runner-up spot at the same track three weeks ago.

Phelan said: “We’re looking forward to it.

“We travelled over on Thursday night and the horse travelled well, so we’re just hoping for the best.

“He had to have a long time off with injury, but he’s come back to form on his last two runs and I think he’s as good as he ever was.

“I think he’s improved again since his last run and hopefully he’s at his peak.

“I walked the course (on Friday morning) and I’m happy with the ground.

“All we can do is hope for a bit of luck in running and that he runs up to his best.”

Last year’s winner Wyck Hill is also back for more, having warmed up for a repeat bid by filling the runner-up spot in a Chepstow novice hurdle at the end of January.

Trainer David Bridgwater said: “I thought it was a great run at Chepstow and people probably underestimated how good it was.

“I know he was a short-priced favourite, but whoever was backing an 11-year-old in a novice hurdle is an idiot.

“The horse that beat him of Jonjo O’Neill’s (Mackerye End) is a nice horse and is half the age of Wyck Hill, so we were delighted with him.

“It will be very tough to win another Eider – those northerners don’t like giving money away – but I’m hopeful he’ll be in the first four. If he is, I’ll be thrilled.

“This is his sort of race and I’m looking forward to seeing how he goes.”

The 18-strong field is headed by Shotgun Paddy, who must carry the welter burden of 11st 12lb over the gruelling four miles and a furlong.

Emma Lavelle’s eight-year-old responded purposefully after a disappointing run in the Welsh Grand National by finishing third in the Classic Chase at Warwick last month.

The Andover handler said: “They haven’t had much rain up there and, ideally, he’d like more. Hopefully they will get some before the race.

“He’s in really good nick and I think the trip will certainly be in his favour. Fingers crossed he goes and builds on his Warwick run.

“He’s a smashing horse and it would be lovely for him to get his head in front.”

Small-time Cheshire trainer Will Kinsey, who has held a licence for a little over three years, has a major contender in Alpha Victor.

The 10-year-old showed he has the heart for a battle when runner-up in last season’s Midlands National at Uttoxeter.

He also looked in good nick when second over hurdles at Wetherby at the end of January. Kinsey said: “Alpha Victor was actually my first ever runner and my first ever winner, so he’s been a great horse for us and hopefully he goes there with a good chance.

More in this section


Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox