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INSIDE TRACK

Wed, Feb 22, 2017

The first major National Hunt fixture of 2017 at Newcastle Racecourse takes place on Saturday (February 25) with the feature Betfred Eider Chase, run over an extended four miles viewed as a significant trial for the Grand National at Aintree in April.

Comply or Die (2008) was the last horse to win both the Eider and the Grand National, but the race itself has a long history of illustrious winners since the first running in 1952.

During the late 1960’s, Highland Wedding almost made the race his own. Trained by Toby Balding, he won the Eider Chase three times (1966, 1967 and 1969) also making it third time lucky at Aintree at the grand old age of 12 in the 1969 Grand National.

Other famous names forever associated with the Eider Chase include Helen Hamilton’s Borders warrior Peaty Sandy (1987), and the Jenny Pitman trained Willsford (1995). More recently, 2009 winner Merigo followed up in the Scottish Grand National (2010), whilst last year, Rocking Blues provided Rose and Tony Dobbin with a popular local success. Incidentally, Tony was also successful in the race as a jockey in 2002 aboard Irish raider This is Serious.

Whilst the final declarations for this weekend’s race won’t be available until 11am on Friday, another Irish trained winner is a possibility with both Raz De Maree and Baie Des Iles amongst the 29 entries which also include past winners Portrait King (2012) and Milborough (2015) and 2016 runner-up Shotgun Paddy.

The Eider Chase fixture will be our fourth National Hunt race-day of 2017, and takes place ten days on from our last meeting (15 February), which was run on holding Heavy ground.
The track has since been reinstated by treaders before being completely rolled and spiked; whilst the running rails on the bends have been moved back into their original positions, providing fresh ground which hasn’t been raced upon since November.
As always, I will be closely monitoring and providing updates on the weather forecast ahead of Saturday. The current official going description is Soft (Good to Soft in Places), but this could change with some heavy rain forecast for Thursday.

Looking further ahead, we announced last week that our All-Weather Championships Good Friday fixture (14 April) will be worth £250,000 and will feature the inaugural running of the £100,000 straight mile Burradon Stakes for three-year-olds, as well as an open 1m4f handicap worth £85,000.

Furthermore, alongside another high quality afternoon of racing, with children admitted free of charge, we’ve called this Easter fixture ‘Alice’s Wonderland Family Day’. A range of family friendly activities will be on offer including a fairground, face-painters, and a best dressed competition for children. Early bird tickets are available from just £10 (until 16 March; when the advance price will increase to £16), with further details on how to book available at: www.newcastle-racecourse.co.uk.

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James Armstrong