Nicky Richards feels the step up to three miles could be the making of Eduard when he has his second run following a long layoff in the Lavazza Jolie Silver Cup Handicap Chase at Ascot on Saturday.
The Greystoke trainer was delighted with Eduard’s comeback effort at this track four weeks ago.
The eight-year-old put in his best work at the finish to get to within three lengths of Royal Regatta in the Grade Two Amlin Chase to confirm he was over the problems that had kept him off the track for 20 months.
“He seems to be fine. The only bit of a doubt is I hope that I’m not going a fortnight too quick on him because he’d had a long layoff,” said Richards.
“There isn’t really another race for him in this country, but he’s in grand fettle.
“I thought he ran a smashing race last time. His jumping was just a little rusty mid-race, but he finished very well.
“If he had jumped the last two real good, he might have nearly won the race. He wasn’t beaten far at all and was finishing faster than anything in the race.
“I’ve always thought he’d want three miles. He’s been a big, strong horse now and he’s got a grand old staying-chase pedigree.
“There’s (Grand National winner) Monty’s Pass in there and (Cheltenham Gold Cup-placed) Harbour Pilot.
“Everything indicates he’ll get it, so we’ve got to try it at some stage.
“It may just point us in which direction we’re going to be going. He’s already a Grade Two winner. I think there’s Graded races in him, hopefully.”
Jonjo O’Neill is three-handed with Holywell, Go Conquer and Another Hero.
Holywell has been around a long time and once defeated this year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Don Cossack at Aintree. However, he has lost his way a little of late.
Go Conquer has been prominent in the ante-post market, but is tackling three miles for the first time, while Another Hero was well beaten at Chepstow in October on his first start since falling in the Irish National.
“We’re claiming off Holywell because he’s been struggling a bit. It’s only 3lb, but Killian (Moore) is an experienced claimer,” said O’Neill’s assistant Guy Upton.
“Go Conquer will hopefully run a nice race. He ran a nice race first time out when he was second. We’re stepping him up to three miles for the first time so it’s an ‘if’ about him getting the trip. Touch wood he will and he’d have a chance if he did off a light weight.
“Another Hero is also off a nice weight and won a novice chase at Ascot last year. He was a bit disappointing first time out, but hopefully he’ll run well.”
The Irish Grand National is the long-term objective for Fletchers Flyer, who makes his first appearance of the winter.
Trainer Harry Fry is keen to get the eight-year-old stayer out on the track ahead of bigger targets that could also include the Cheltenham Festival.
“It is his first run of the season but he has been doing well at home,” said Fry.
“He has won at Ascot before and has done all his winning right-handed, incidentally.
“We are working backwards from the spring and to hopefully having a tilt at the Irish National, with a stop at the four-miler at the Cheltenham Festival.
“He needs to get his season started. He is in good form and is in better form than we anticipated having him at this time of year.
“He is a horse that takes a bit of time and with a view to targets in the spring, we have let him come to hand in his own time.
“Hopefully this will be the first step up the ladder.”
Alan King is looking forward to trying Annacotty over three miles, despite having the burden of top weight.
The eight-year-old has been campaigned mainly around two and a half miles of late, but his Grade One success as a novice came over the longer distance when he was trained by Martin Keighley.
“I’ve been waiting to step him up back up to three miles and this looks like the right race, but it will be tough off top weight,” said King.
“He was high enough in the handicap at Cheltenham and the ground was not quite soft enough, so he got taken off his legs a bit.
“He seems in good order, but these old horses will go if they want to go.”