Title rivals Nicholls and Henderson go head-to-head for valuable prize
Insure With Be Wiser Handicap Chase | 2m4f | 5yo+ | ITV4
If Paul Nicholls is to hold on to his trainer's title and see off the challenge of old rival Nicky Henderson, it is perhaps races such as this that could hold the key.
The master of Ditcheat is clinging onto the coattails of Henderson and is targeting this £20,000 prize (with £12,660 to the winner) with Ulck Du Lin and Warriors Tale.
For Ulck Du Lin, the trip represents a step into the relatively unknown, while Warriors Tale heads to Newbury on the back of a victory at the same course this month.
Henderson is not ignoring the prize either and pins his hopes on Ericht, who came off third best in a thrilling three-way finish to a veterans' chase at Doncaster last month.
Back from a break
The drying ground has brought about the return of a number of runners who have been enjoying winter holidays, with perhaps the most interesting being the Emma Lavelle-trained Casino Markets. The nine-year-old won back-to-back starts last summer and has been absent since finding only Fox Norton and Sizing Platinum too good in a Cheltenham handicap chase back in October.
Robert Walford saddles Walk In The Mill, with the trainer having sent out two winners from his last four starters during the last fortnight.
What they say
Kerry Lee, trainer of Grey Gold
I should think the step up in trip on the ground will help him. He has won at Newbury before but it was very soft that day. We hope he goes there with a strong each-way chance.
Robert Walford, trainer of Walk In The Mill
We were disappointed with him last time at Cheltenham but he seems in good form. He's very versatile ground wise, so I'm not worried about that and we're hopeful of a good run.
Paul Nicholls, trainer of Ulck Du Lin and Warriors Tale
Ulck Du Lin hasn't run for a while, we've been waiting for better ground for him. It's a bit of a new trip for him and he's capable of running well but I think he's quite harshly treated for what he's actually achieved. Warriors Tale won well last time and is in good form, so hopefully he will run well again.
Evan Williams, trainer of Aqua Dude
He ran well last time and the track will probably suit him. I wouldn't worry about the drying ground, he'll handle decent ground.
Nicky Henderson, trainer of Ericht
He ran a very good race at Doncaster last time and I do think 2m4f suits him better than 3m. He likes going left-handed too, so the race selected itself really.
Emma Lavelle, trainer of Casino Markets
He's had a winter break and is very fresh and well. My concern would be the ground being a little bit softer than ideal for him but he needs to start his season somewhere, so hopefully the sun is out and the wind is blowing to dry it up a bit.
Oliver Sherwood, trainer of Icing On The Cake
I wanted to run him in the Plate at Cheltenham but he was balloted out. He's progressive, a course winner and two miles was probably a bit sharp for him the last two times. He's in good form but it's a competitive race. He has a lovely racing weight.