Racing: Indian Arrow and Ottowa ready for the long haul

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The Independent Online
THE mysteries of race-planning dictate that today's two most valuable races are both Grand National rehearsals. Chepstow's version, the John Hughes Grand National Trial, promises to be the most informative with the Aintree entrants River Mandate, St Mellion Fairway and Destin D'Estruval among the runners, while at Newcastle Scotton Banks, Samlee and Linden's Lotto are worthy of consideration for the National itself.

Typically, though, what wins today may have little bearing on the result on 4 April. The novice Ottowa (2.15), deemed too immature for Aintree, can take Chepstow's trial and prove that, despite being fortunate to win at Uttoxeter last time when Kamikaze's pilot ejected and left the race to Paul Nicholls's charge, he is a considerable force in his own right.

Newcastle's trial, the Eider Chase, may fall to Indian Arrow (3.05), a horse who had been campaigned almost exclusively over two miles until a couple of months ago. When he was tried over a distance of ground at Wincanton last time he proved a revelation and, although he may be too far out of the handicap to make an impact at Aintree, he should be able to cope with another horse stepping up in trip here, Linden's Lotto.

Chepstow's opener may go to Muskhill (1.15), who was bred by Pat Eddery and was put through his paces by the former champion Flat jockey this week. His trainer, David Nicholson, runs two in this event and may also be on the mark in the novice hurdle at Warwick with Samuel Wilderspin (4.10).

A trial for Cheltenham's Arkle Chase is the main attraction at Warwick and Lake Kariba (3.40), who fell in the early stages of a race at Ascot last time, may just outpoint Ashwell Boy. There are more top novices on show at Chepstow, where Fiddling The Facts (3.45) can outjump Escartefigue.

Nick Henderson has advised bookmakers to remove Sharpical from Champion Hurdle betting because the horse has a leg problem. Sharpical, as low as 14-1 for Cheltenham, took a knock during his impressive win in the Tote Gold Trophy last week. "It's responding," Henderson said. "But we are never going to take chances with this horse and it's unlikely he'll run. I'm not ruling him out completely but for betting purposes he has to come out."