At 4 miles 1½ furlongs, Newcastle’s Eider Chase is one of the longest National Hunt races on the calendar. As a result of its marathon distance, this race is a major indicator for both the Grand National held at Aintree and Scottish Grand National from Ayr in April and also the Midlands Grand National at Uttoxeter in March. Comply Or Die, trained by David Pipe and ridden by Timmy Murphy, was the last horse to take this race before victory that year in the big one at Aintree, doing so in 2008.
First run in 1952, one of this race’s major challenges has been defeating the weather over the years, with snow, frost and waterlogging persistently causing problems for the North East track in February.
Four miles, one and a half furlongs is the significant trip for this marathon Class 2 handicap chase, with the current soft ground at the track set to ensure that this is a real test. With 12 runners go to post this year in pursuit of a hare of the £70,000 in total prize money on offer, it promises to be a competitive affair.
|Going||Distance||Grade||Prize Money||Runners||EW Terms|
|Soft||4m1½f||Class 2||£70,000||12 Runners||1/4 1-3|
Eider Handicap Chase Betting Tips
Toby Balding is out in front in the trainers' table in this event with four wins to his name, largely thanks to the exploits of three-time champ Highland Wedding during the 1960s. None of the trainers on show this year come close to that record, but each of Caroline Bailey, David Bridgewater, Ian Duncan and David Pipe do have previous wins in the race to their name.
Given how much of a slog this race tends to be, with gruelling conditions the norm, it perhaps isn’t surprising to see that those with a lighter weight have been favoured of late, with seven of the past eight winners being saddled with 11st or less on the day.
Favourite backers are also likely to have found this something of a slog in recent years, with just the one winning jolly across the past 10 completed editions – handing supporters of the market leader a loss of £6.25 to £1 level stakes.
|Sam’s Adventure||4/1||11st 1lb||Brian Ellison||Henry Brooke|
|Crosspark||6/1||11st 12lbs||Caroline Bailey||Sean Bowen|
|Strong Economy||14/1||10st 0lbs||Ian Duncan||Conor O’Farrell|
Sam’s Adventure – 4/1
A Newcastle native, but now based in Yorkshire, Brian Ellison is a man who regularly targets the top events at his hometown track. Yet to taste success in this marathon event, he would look to have solid claims of putting that right this year, as it is his nine year old, Sam’s Adventure, who currently heads the betting.
Boasting overall form figures of 4122 at the track, Newcastle’s National Hunt course clearly holds no fears, and with each of his five wins having come on soft or worse going, the current conditions ought to suit – with any further rain in the build-up to the race more than welcome for this confirmed mudlark.
The mount of Henry Brooke would also appear to be headed into the race in decent heart. Underwhelming in his first two outings this season, he bounced right back to his best with a four length success over 3m1½f at Haydock in December, before unseating when in the process of running a big race behind the talented Royal Pagaille at that same track last time out. Yet to race at beyond 3m2f, the biggest question mark here is of course the trip, but that’s the same for a few of these and, only six pounds higher than his latest winning mark, he’s handicapped to go well.
There have been only two repeat winners in the history of this race, and none since Highland Wedding landed his third success here back in 1969. Bidding to join that exclusive club in 2021 is 2019 champ, Crosspark, who goes for Caroline Bailey. With the race having been abandoned in 2020, this tough 11 year old is effectively the reigning champion here, and likely won’t give up his crown without a fight.
Last season was admittedly something of a write-off for this horse, with three starts yielding two pulled up efforts and a 74-length defeat at Haydock. Hardly inspiring form figures. On the back of those efforts, it was difficult to know what to expect this term, but a 272-day break seems to have done him the world of good.
Four starts this season have yielded four second-place finishes, including a cracking effort when only narrowly denied in the London National at Sandown. On the downside, that consistent run of form has resulted in a steady rise in the handicap, to the extent that he is now fully 15 pounds higher than when winning this two years ago. That said, we can at least be fairly confident he is back to something like his best, and he’s the only runner in the field with a distance win to his name, which counts for plenty in a contest such as this.
Strong Economy – 14/1
Of those a little further down the list, the one to catch our eye at a double figure price is the Ian Duncan runner, Strong Economy. Having saddled Milborough to victory in this race in 2015, Duncan knows the type required to succeed and would look to have another likely candidate on his hands in the shape of this nine year old son of Sandmason.
Formerly with Ayreshire handler Mike Smith, Strong Economy made the short trip to the Ian Duncan yard in October 2018, and it is safe to say he has rarely ventured too far from home throughout his career, with 20 of his 21 career starts to date having come at Ayr. That lack of experience of other tracks does pose a question, but then again there is nothing to say that he won't like it around here, and it looks interesting that his trainer is choosing this moment to finally divert from his local track – a decision which has no doubt been inspired by the horse's excellent form this season.
Looking in need of the outing on seasonal return at – you guessed it – Ayr, he made no mistake next time out to score by a length off a mark of 111, before posting a career-best to come home in front off 117 over 3m3f last time out. What really caught our eye that day was the power-packed finish he produced, making up fully seven lengths on the three in front of him after the final flight to ultimately be pulling away at the line. He’s up another seven pounds here, but looks the sort who may well improve for this further step up in trip and can go well at a double-figure price.
Eider Handicap Chase Winners
|2019||Crosspark||12/1||Caroline Bailey||Jamie Moore|
|2018||Baywing||8/1||Nicky Richards||Ryan Day|
|2017||Mysteree||10/1||Michael Scudamore||Robert Dunne|
|2016||Rocking Blues||8/1||Rose Dobbin||Lorcan Murtagh|
|2015||Milborough||18/1||Ian Duncan||Graham Watters|
|2014||Wyck Hill||9/1||David Bridgewater||Tom Scudamore|
|2012||Portrait King||11/4||Maurice Phelan||Denis O'Regan|
|2011||Companero||16/1||Howard Johnson||Peter Buchanan|
About the Eider Chase: A Slog On The Tyne
February each year sees the North East venue of Newcastle play host to one of its biggest jumps races of the calendar year. Held over a distance of four miles and half a furlong and often run in pretty bottomless ground, the Eider Chase is undoubtedly one of the toughest and most stamina-sapping contests run anywhere in Britain or Ireland. This Class 2 handicap event is open to chasers aged five and older, with 25 fences standing between the competitors and glory.
The name of the race stems from a wildlife theme used in the naming of a number of the early races at Newcastle, with the “Eider” being a breed of duck known to live in the Gosforth Park area where the track is located. The colour of the Eider Duck? Black and white of course like Newcastle’s famous football team.
The Northern National
Unsurprisingly given the demands of the contest, this race has often been used as a trial for the Grand National at Aintree over the years. First run in 1952 the race was even known as the “Northern National” during its early years. Since then a variety of sponsors – most notably the Tote – have lent their support to one of the North East’s major racing events, with betting firm Betfred taking over the reins in 2012 following their acquisition of the pool betting operator.
It has proven a tall order to win both this race and the Aintree Spectacular over the years, but not an impossible one, with Comply Or Die achieving the famous double in 2008 for David Pipe. The race can be a useful pointer towards other major staying chases on the racing calendar, with Willsford backing up a win here with a triumph in the Scottish Grand National at Ayr in the same season. Merigo also went on to win the Scottish Grand National the season following his Eider win.
Eider Chase Winner’s Follow-Up Race: 2008 – 2019
|Year||Eider Chase Winner||Following Run|
|2019||Crosspark||Second in the Scottish Grand National (Ayr)|
|2018||Baywing||Second in the Liz Adam Memorial Chase (Kelso)|
|2017||Mysteree||Second in the Midlands Grand National (Uttoxeter)|
|2016||Rocking Blues||Did not run again|
|2015||Milborough||Unseated rider in the Scottish Grand National (Ayr)|
|2014||Wyck Hill||Sixth in the Midlands Grand National (Uttoxeter)|
|2012||Portrait King||Tenth in the Scottish Grand National (Ayr)|
|2011||Companero||Pulled-up in the Midlands Grand National (Uttoxeter)|
|2009||Merigo||Seventh in the Cumberland Handicap Chase (Carlisle)|
|2008||Comply Or Die||Winner of the Grand National (Aintree)|
Tough for The Young to Prevail
It may be open to runners aged five and older, but its proven tough for any so young to outstay their older, stronger rivals. No horse younger than seven years of age has ever come home in front in this. The table below gives a full breakdown of the age of the winners.
Wedding and Wyndburgh The Only Multiple Winners
A tough contest to win once, this race has proven to be an even harder race to win for a second time, with many former champions trying and failing over the years. Many, but not all. Wyndburgh landed back to back editions in 1957 and 1958, whilst Toby Balding’s Highland Wedding did even better than that when toughing it out in 1966, 1967 and 1969. That 1967 success was particularly notable as, as of 2018, the 12 stone he was saddled with that day remains the highest weight ever carried to victory in the race.
Multiple Eider Chase Winning Horses
|Horse||Trainer||Years of Victories (Weight Carried)|
|Highland Wedding||Toby Balding||1966 (10st 11lbs)||1967 (12st 0lbs)||1969 (11st 11lbs)|
|Wyndburgh||P Wilkinson||1957 (10st 4lbs)||1958 (11st 1lb)|
Oh Snow! It’s off again.
One of the unfortunate risks of staging a major horse race in Newcastle in the month of February is the fact that the weather often isn’t in the mood to co-operate. Be it due to waterlogging, snow or frost, the Eider Chase must be one of the most abandoned contests of the racing season, with no fewer than 21 editions biting the dust due to inclement conditions since 1952. The latest casualty was in 2020 when parts of the course were left waterlogged after heavy rain.