David Pipe feels Comply Or Die has his best chance of winning a race since he famously landed the Grand National back in 2008 when he lines up in tomorrow’s totesport.com Eider Chase at Newcastle.
Now a 12-year-old, the veteran showed more of his old sparkle in the Classic Chase at Warwick last time out and has been dropped a further 4lb in the handicap.
He won the Eider before his Aintree success three years ago and while the ground was testing enough that day, conditions are set to be even more gruelling at Gosforth Park this weekend.
“I thought he ran well at Warwick and he’s improved since then,” said Pipe.
“He’s not getting any younger, but this is probably the first time he has had a realistic chance of winning since the National.
“He is as close in the handicap now to the mark which he won the National off. This is the best chance he’s had since.
“He handled the very heavy ground at Warwick last time, but I think he’s probably better on better ground.
“Nothing will probably enjoy the ground tomorrow and it’s going to be difficult with top weight, but he’s in good order and he showed some sparkle last time at Warwick.
“When he won the Eider they called the ground good to soft, it was probably soft but nothing like what it will be tomorrow.”
Charlie Longsdon believes Minella Boys ticks all the boxes after his recent good efforts.
“Since stepping up to the extreme trips he has come into his own. That’s what he loves – extreme trips and extreme going. It’s going to be pretty tiring up there so hopefully he’ll love that,” he said.
“I know West End Rocker did nothing for the Warwick form last week but before that he’d looked an improved horse. I think we were right not to take him on last weekend as Silver By Nature looked very classy.
“We know we are not in that league of ability but hopefully this race will suit him more. We’re getting a stone off Comply Or Die, and we beat him pretty easy at Warwick.
“Giles Cross and Belon Gale are the other obvious ones but they’ve got plenty of weight and with it being a real slog it might be one of the bottom ones we need to worry about.
“I hope he goes really well.”
Despite Comply Or Die being in the twilight of his career, Victor Dartnall still feels his runner Giles Cross has most to fear from the top weight.
“He’s very well. It’s 3.4 on the Richter scale (going stick) which should suit him down to the ground. It really can’t be soft enough for him,” said Dartnall.
“You’ve got to respect the Pipe horse (Comply or Die) but in another way I’m glad that he runs to keep our weight down.
“None of the others have run as well in a class of race like the Welsh National, so you’d have to think he has a very good chance.”
Jamie Poulton is hoping Ballyfoy can improve on his eighth place in the Welsh National and feels his close proximity there to last weekend’s easy Haydock winner Silver By Nature gives him a chance.
“We were disappointed with the way the race was run. It was slowly run and then they quickened which didn’t suit him, we want more of an even gallop where we can finish,” Poulton told At The Races.
“We were only a neck behind Silver By Nature and conditions should suit us better.
“He ran a decent enough race over hurdles last time as it was a trip a long way short of his best. We’ve got Mattie Batchelor back as well.”
Batchelor added: “I think he’ll enjoy the four miles, he’s got bundles of stamina and I’m hoping he’ll come into his own.
“It was sticky, horrible ground at Chepstow and they quickened away from me down the back but he stayed on up the straight and in another 20 yards I would have got by Silver By Nature so he’s run a hell of a race.”
Howard Johnson fears the handicapper has got hold of Belon Gale, who won his only previous start of the season at Hexham over four miles in heavy ground.
While stamina will not be an issue, the County Durham handler just feels a mark of 137 could be too high.
“Everything will suit him, but the handicapper has just got hold of him,” said Johnson.
“He’s a bit high I think, he shouldn’t have a mark of 137. It’s all to do with when he nearly beat Money Trix from out of the handicap a couple of years ago.
“He’s come on a lot for his first run and this is the race we’ve always been aiming at. Races like this and the Midlands National are his Gold Cups.
“Companero has lost his way. I don’t know what’s the matter with him these days.
“He’s got the ability still but he’s very lethargic in his races. You couldn’t put trust in him at the moment and he might be retired at the end of the season.
“I’ve put blinkers on him and hopefully that might spark him back to life.
“It’s ever since he’s had the year off. Some come back from it but plenty don’t.
“There’s only 12 runners so hopefully they can both hunt round and we’ll see how they go. I’m looking forward to it.”