Sharpical stands as low as 14-1 for the Champion with the Tote (25-1 with William Hill) after displaying a fine burst of speed to beat Kerawi in the Newbury race on Saturday. In a year in which only Dato Star and Istabraq have won recognised Champion trials with authority, Sharpical looked a tempting alternative to at least reach a place at Cheltenham.
His trainer, Nick Henderson, said last night: "Sharpical is never a horse who comes back from his races well. I'm going home to see him with my vet. That is all I can say at present. I will tell you more tomorrow."
Also under the weather is Kamikaze, who had been second favourite for tomorrow's Eider Chase at Newcastle. He has been forced to miss the race due to a poor blood count. "It's disappointing because he has been unlucky," his trainer, Kim Bailey, said, referring with some understatement to the grey's defeat at Uttoxter last time when he unseated his rider two fences out with the race at his mercy.
In Kamikaze's absence the Eider favourite, Linden's Lotto, has been shortened to 4-1, from 5-1, by William Hill. He is attempting to brighten the fortunes of his trainer, Gordon Richards, who has his own pre-Cheltenham tale of woe.
The Grey Monk, Richards's best horse, is still not sparkling and will not be able to have an outing before the Gold Cup. His campaign this season has been restricted to just one run.
"He's usually a cocky horse, but he just hasn't come out cocky for a while now," Richards said. "He isn't coughing or anything but he needs to come right. If he doesn't then I wouldn't run him at Cheltenham; that would be bad training.We've got a really good horse here but he's not a good horse at the moment."
The Grey Monk has already missed intended targets in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown and Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock. The Greenalls Gold Cup at the Lancashire track next Saturday had been pencilled in for his return but he, along with fellow Gold Cup hope Suny Bay, will not be ready to make the line-up. The pair have been drifting in Gold Cup betting during their absence from the track and, after being both on offer at 6-1 a month ago, are now available at 9-1 (The Grey Monk, Coral) and 12-1 (Suny Bay, William Hill).
Apart from Linden's Lotto, whom Richards has transformed since taking him over at the start of the season, the Greystoke stable has another pair of runners at Newcastle tomorrow that could be crucial to the yard's success this season.
"Edelweiss Du Moulin runs in the novice chase. He has to give weight away but he's got a bit of class. After that he'll go for the Arkle.
"We're running Addington Boy in a handicap hurdle on the same card. He's definitely going for the Gold Cup and this is just to help with his fitness. He won't win but there's just not a suitable chase for him. He ran too freely at Cheltenham [when fifth to See More Business] and just ran himself into the ground.
Among Addington Boy's rivals at Newcastle is another chaser that started the season with Gold Cup aspirations, Sparky Gayle. He needs to acquit himself well to justify a return to the larger obstacles for the Mildmay of Flete Chase at the Festival.
Eider Chase betting
Horse Coral William Hill
Linden's Lotto 5-1 4-1
Indian Arrow 6-1 6-1
Samlee 6-1 7-1
Domaine De Pron 7-1 6-1
St Mellion Fairway 9-1 11-1
Stormtracker 10-1 10-1