Ewart confident Captain Americo can emerge as hero

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TODAY’S Betfred Eider Chase at Newcastle has been the target for Captain Americo since he finished second in the Borders National at Kelso in December, and he is fancied to go well in the £50,000 stamina-sapping contest this afternoon.

Third in last year’s Eider, his trainer James Ewart is hoping for another solid performance. “He’s in good form,” said the Langholm handler. “This race has been the plan since he ran in the Borders National. He needs large gaps between his races and this seemed a sensible opportunity.”

Mortimers Cross defeated Captain Americo when winning the Borders National and his owner/trainer John Needham has his fingers crossed the 12-year-old can rise to the challenge today. He has to put a disappointing run at Ffos Las on Boxing Day behind him, but Needham said: “He seems fine and he’s not been out since Boxing Day when he was disappointing. It may have been the ground or perhaps that run came too soon after Kelso. Andrew Thornton, who rode him at Fontwell, said we should run him in the Eider. We are doing that and Andrew is on him, so we are hoping for the best.”

Trainer Chris Bealby believes Chac Du Cadran’s bottomless stamina will stand him in good stead. The seven-year-old is favourite for the four-mile-one-furlong marathon. “Stamina seems to be his strong suit. We stepped him up to three-miles-six at Catterick and he was relentless,” said the Lincolnshire handler. “He kept going, and hopefully another three furlongs at Newcastle won’t inconvenience him too much. He’s gone up 11lb, it’s another grade up and hopefully he’s on the way up as well.”

A 14-strong field is headed by the David Pipe-trained Master Overseer, while trainer Philip Kirby has had this race in mind for Cool Operator since a minor setback forced him out of the Welsh National. The ten-year-old had been in top form, winning his first two races of the winter.

At Kempton, Nicky Henderson and Paul Nicholls have used the Racing UK Subscribe For Cheltenham Adonis Juvenile Hurdle to unearth a Triumph winner in recent years and both are trying to bolster their squads again. Of the last six runnings of the Adonis, Henderson has landed half with Triumph hero Soldatino and subsequent champion hurdlers Punjabi and Binocular, and this time he fields Vasco Du Ronceray and Courtesy Call. Nicholls, whose Champion Hurdle hope Zarkandar collected the Adonis in 2011, saddles Irish Saint.

Nicholls suffered a pre-Cheltenham setback yesterday when leading Arkle contender Fago saw his Festival aspirations dealt a huge blow as he suffered a comprehensive defeat in the Kilbrittain Castle Novices’ Chase at Sandown.

Sent off the 2-5 favourite to bounce back, the five-year-old was in trouble when Tony McCoy kicked for home after jumping the Pond fence aboard 7-2 shot Kapga De Cerisy. The Venetia Williams-trained winner bounded further clear in the straight and although McCoy did well to stay in the saddle after a blunder at the final obstacle, the winning margin was still 15 lengths.