SUE SMITH believes stamina will not be an issue when long distance specialist Hainan tackles an extended four miles for the first time in today’s Betfred Eider Chase at Newcastle.
The seven-year-old grey has shown he relishes extreme distances with a 12-length victory over three and a half miles at Haydock in November before putting up a more than creditable effort to finish third in the Grade Two Peter Marsh Chase at the Merseyside track.
Hainan, the mount of Danny Cook, stayed on in the closing stages of the competitive contest over a shorter than ideal three miles to finish third behind The Dutchman. He was, however, ahead of Yala Enki, a wide margin winner of the Grand National Trial at Haydock last weekend.
The still improving chasing runs in the red and white quartered colours carried with distinction by horses like Kalahari King, De Boitron and, more recently, six-time winner De Vous A Moi.
Like all the runners in the Town Moor marathon, the issue will be their ability to handle heavy ground that will have become desperately tacky following the sudden drop in temperatures.
“He won well at Haydock and ran another good race there in the Peter Marsh and finished third in the end,” said Smith who, slightly surprisingly, is still seeking her first win in this prestigious race. “He does seem to want an extreme trip. He jumps well enough. We’re very hopeful. He seems to be in very good form going there.”
The Bingley handler also saddles Smooth Stepper, who has won three times over the near three-mile trip at Newcastle, but Smith wonders if he will last out the extra mile.
“He likes Newcastle, but obviously he’s got an extra mile to go and I’ve a feeling the ground is going to be a bit claggy. Whether that will suit him or not for that further mile, I don’t really know,” she said. “He does seem very well and both go there with possibilities.”
Harry Whittington feels this is the ideal race for Vinnie Lewis, who has improved for the step up in distance to win his last two races at Sedgefield and Plumpton under stable jockey Harry Bannister who grew up in North Yorkshire.
“Where he’s improved so much is running him in his conditions. We’ve found his conditions and he’s excelling,” said Whittington. “He seems to love soft, heavy ground and as far as you like. In the Sussex National it looked like he could have gone round again.
“He was awesome at Plumpton. There were some good yardsticks in there like Shotgun Paddy. Vinnie Lewis is sweet at the moment. We’ve got a very progressive seven-year-old and he’s thriving.
“The Eider looks tailor-made for his next step. He wasn’t stopping in the Sussex National and the extra two furlongs shouldn’t be a problem.”
Phil Kirby’s stable star Lady Buttons reverts to fences today at Newcastle.
Fourth in a competitive hurdle earlier this month when Leopardstown hosted the inaugural Dublin Racing Festival, Adam Nicol’s mount faces five rivals in the Betfred Novices Chase. Catterick-based Kirby maintains that Lady Buttons thrives on her racing and always planned to go back to steeplechasing to exploit her novice status in this sphere.