Shotgun aims for Classic
Views from connections ahead of the Betfred Classic Chase at Warwick on Saturday.
Shotgun Paddy: Warwick hopeful
Emma Lavelle believes Shotgun Paddy remains at the peak of his powers ahead of his bid for a second victory in the Betfred Classic Chase at Warwick.
It is three years since the gelding claimed top honours in the valuable staying handicap and he was a creditable third when defending his crown in 2015.
The 10-year-old was placed in both the Welsh Grand National and the Eider Chase last season and Lavelle is expecting another bold show from her stable stalwart on Saturday.
"He's in really good order and I think the rain that's fallen can only help him," said the Marlborough-based trainer.
"He missed the cut for the Welsh National, which was gutting at the time, but then after watching the way Native River won, I'm not sure we'd have beaten him.
"He obviously loves Warwick, he's come down the ratings a bit and I think he's in as good a order as he's ever been."
Shotgun Paddy has had just one previous run this season, finishing seventh after being caught up in a melee caused by a loose horse at Cheltenham in November.
Lavelle said: "I was delighted with the way he ran at Cheltenham, but at the same time a bit frustrated as he was in such a lovely rhythm when the loose horse bashed him in the head.
"He came back with a lot of blood on his face and I was worried, but we scoped him and he was fine and it turned out it was just a nose bleed.
"That wouldn't have been very nice for him, so it was probably an even better run that we thought at the time.
"If he gets a bit of luck in running and jumps all the fences cleanly, then he should run a big race on Saturday."
Shotgun Paddy is one of three previous winners in the three-mile-five-furlong contest.
Rigadin De Beauchene struck gold for Venetia Williams in 2013, while Russe Blanc emerged victorious 12 months ago for Kerry Lee.
Russe Blanc returns racing off a 7lb higher mark, although that rise is negated by the claim of amateur rider Richard Patrick.
Lee also saddles last season's Welsh National hero Mountainous and the blinkered Goodtoknow.
She said: "I wouldn't be too gung-ho about any of them, but I think they've all got chances.
"We're looking forward to going back to Warwick with Russe Blanc. This has been the plan for him all season and he is in great form.
"I would hope with the 7lb taken off his back, he'd have a strong chance and the more rain the better for him.
"It's the same thing with Mountainous. He's in great form, but unfortunately he hasn't really had his conditions since he won the Welsh National last year.
"He needs heavy ground, but what else can we do with him? He's at the stage of his career where we've got to let him take his chance.
"We're putting blinkers on Goodtoknow for the first time. He's not ungenuine at all, but he likes to have a look at everything around him, so hopefully blinkers will keep his concentration levels up.
"Jake Greenall gets on well with him."
One For Arthur is a major contender for Scottish trainer Lucinda Russell.
The eight-year-old made a successful reappearance at Kelso before finishing fifth in the Becher Chase over Aintree's Grand National fences.
"I thought he ran a fantastic race at Aintree. Going to Aintree I was hoping he'd adapt to the National fences and now I'm hoping he'll adapt going back to the park fences. Us trainers always worry about something," said Russell.
"Jumping counts for a lot around Warwick, so they tell me, and he does jump well.
"The trip is fine and the ground should be all right, so hopefully he'll run very well."
The David Pipe-trained Doctor Harper was beaten just a short-head at Cheltenham on New Year's Day
Jockey Tom Scudamore said: "He ran a blinding race at Cheltenham the other week.
"Obviously the way he finished, these long-distances chases will suit him and the more rain the better."
Kaki De La Pree is yet to finish outside the first three after six starts over fences.
"I'd like it to rain a lot. He's good and he can go, but it would have to be soft ground," said trainer Tom Symonds.
"If Saturday doesn't work out there's the Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock the following week."
Kim Bailey's Knockanrawley has not run since placing third at Cheltenham in November 2015 and may benefit from the outing.
Bailey said: "He obviously hasn't run for a long time, but he does seem to go well fresh.
"He's as fit as I can get him at home, but I'm afraid he's still as a big as a house. He looks like a double decker bus!
"On his best form he'd have a good chance, so fingers crossed he runs well."