Paddy in line for Eider honours
Shotgun Paddy and Raz De Maree are fighting it out for favouritism for the Betfred Eider Chase after the five-day confirmations but connections of both horses have issued cautioning notes.
Shotgun Paddy: Could go for the Eider
Emma Lavelle's Shotgun Paddy was second 12 months ago to Rocking Blues, but the spring-like weather and strong winds in the north-east will not help the mud-lover's chances.
Raz De Maree, runner-up in the Welsh National behind Gold Cup second-favourite Native River, looks like being forced to carry a big weight, which is of some concern for County Meath handler Gavin Cromwell.
Lavelle said on At The Races: "He's in very good order and the plan is to run.
"I've heard a going report saying 'lovely drying wind' – that is no good for him, but there is some rain about so hopefully it hits Newcastle.
"He's in great order, a few pounds lower than last year so hopefully he can run his race.
"He's honest, he's just not quick – he just keeps galloping and jumping. He's not stupid, he tries the first few and works out how low he can go, he's got his own style.
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"He's a solid stayer and he deserves to win one of thee big chases because he's knocked on the door in so many of them.
"Hopefully Saturday will be his day."
The original top weight Perfect Candidate was ruled out by his trainer Fergal O'Brien, and he might now go straight to Aintree for the Randox Health Grand National.
With no Perfect Candidate, Baie Des Iles, winner of a National trial at Punchestown, has been left at the head of the weights for Ross O'Sullivan and Katie Walsh.
That leaves Raz De Maree as next on the list. However, Cromwell is not too keen on his 11-year-old carrying a hefty burden.
"He ended up finishing closer to Native River than looked likely at one stage and I'm not sure if it flattered us or not, but that's where he finished," said Cromwell.
"That day we could have done with a little more rain to turn it into a proper test, so I hope the forecast rain materialises this week.
"The one thing I wouldn't want is for him to carry a big weight as he's only a small horse, so I'll have to have a good think.
"Our big aim is Aintree, so I don't want to pull the guts out of him this weekend."
Sue Smith has left in Straidnahanna and Smooth Stepper, while Emperor's Choice, Goulanes, Milborough, Mountainous and Portrait King have all proved themselves over extreme distances in the past.
Out Sam, Alto Des Mottes, Milansbar and Streets Of Promise are also among the 29 left in.
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