Ground key to Seabass Kempton plunge -- Walsh
Ground conditions will dictate whether Ted Walsh allows prolific winner Seabass to take his chance in the Racing Plus Chase at Kempton on Saturday.
The nine-year-old is unbeaten in his last six starts on this side of the Irish Sea and and has landed valuable handicaps at Limerick and Leopardstown.
But with conditions at Kempton currently drying out, Walsh is concerned the ground will not suit his charge. Seabass also has the option of running in the Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse on Saturday or the paddypower.com Chase at Naas on Sunday.
"It all depends on the weather," said Walsh. "They are calling the ground good at Kempton and are even talking about watering if the rain doesn't come, which tells me it is pretty quick -- that wouldn't suit our horse.
"We've also got him at Fairyhouse and Naas and we'll just see which way the weather is going later in the week."
Colin Tizzard intends to make a late decision on whether to let Saturday's facile Haydock winner Cannington Brook turn out again quickly for this prestigious handicap.
The eight-year-old galloped his rivals into the ground on Merseyside, with the handicapper having raised his mark by over a stone.
Cannington Brook would only carry a 5lb penalty this weekend, but Tizzard wants to check on his inmate's well-being later this week before committing to a run.
"We left him in the race on Monday and we're keeping our options open at the moment," said the Dorset handler.
David Pipe continues to give very little away about the likely Cheltenham target for the dashing grey Grands Crus, with the trainer continuing to weigh up the options of the novice either sticking to his own experience division in the RSA Chase, or to go for the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
"We will decide nearer the time," he said. "We have to see what's in the races and look at ground conditions and everything else.
Grands Crus -- rated 7/4 favourite for the RSA and 8/1 for the Gold Cup -- shook up Big Buck's in the last Ladbrokes World Hurdle and his progress has continued unabated over fences this season with three consecutive wins.
"We have to decide if he's ready for it and look at the opposition. Those are two things," said Pipe. "Can he travel at the pace of the Gold Cup? I would say yes. "Can he jump at the pace of the Gold Cup? I'd say that's the only issue.
Cheltenham's clerk of the course Simon Claisse will start watering the track as early as today as he begins to prepare for next month's Festival.
There are only three weeks until the highlight of the National Hunt season and Prestbury Park is currently quicker underfoot than ideal.
"As expected, warmer weather is on the way and I think it will be 15C or 16C by the end of the week," Claisse said.
"We were pretty much frozen from Festival Trials Day up to last Tuesday and we will start watering the course from Wednesday, primarily to activate the fertiliser we put on the ground."
Closer to home, Dessie Hughes has longer-term objectives in mind for all his three runners in the Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse on Saturday as he looks for his third win in four years in the race.
The Kildare trainer intends to saddle Black Apalachi, Rare Bob and Magnanimity in the Grade Two contest over three miles and a furlong as a stepping stone to bigger targets in the spring.
Black Apalachi and Rare Bob are both in the John Smith's Grand National while Magnanimity is in the Ryanair Chase and the Betfred Gold Cup at Cheltenham and could be considered for the Irish Grand National in April.
"Black Apalachi will need the run, of course, because he hasn't had a run yet this year," Hughes said.
Hughes feels Rare Bob could be the right type of horse for the Grand National, judging by his first run over the unique fences earlier in the season.
"We were delighted when he ran in Liverpool in early December and he jumped impeccably," Hughes stated." We think he'll make a National horse."