Warren Greatrex is looking to Missed Approach to book his Grand National ticket with a bold showing in the Betfred Classic Chase at Warwick.
The eight-year-old finished sixth in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury, with the handicapper dropping him 6lb in the ratings, although Missed Approach still shoulders top weight in this three-mile-five-furlong affair, won 12 months ago by subsequent Grand National hero One For Arthur.
Greatrex said: “He seems in good form and this seems a good race to go for. Unfortunately he has got top weight which is not ideal, but he is the best horse in the race. It is a very compressed race and there’s a stone between top and bottom which is quite unusual.
“The trip won’t hurt him and he won’t mind the ground. The track, with so many fences, should help him as he is a good jumper.
“He was dropped 6lb from Ladbrokes Trophy. He ran in the Scottish National off 148, then I thought he ran a blinder in the Ladbrokes Trophy.
“I think this is the right race to go for as we would like to get him up a couple of pounds to make sure he gets into the Grand National.”
Kerry Lee is triple-handed with 2016 winner Russe Blanc, Goodtoknow and Krackatoa King.
The last-named runner would appear to be her leading hope after notching up a string of placed efforts, including two wins since transferring to Lee’s care from Noel Williams last winter.
Lee said: “He’s so consistent and he’s not finished out of the first four since I’ve had him.
“He’s probably one of the biggest horses in training – he’s 18.2 hands high. His original target was the Somerset National (January 18) but there weren’t many entries for this race, so we thought we’d give it a go.
“He ran a great race at Wincanton – he was only beaten a nostril – and he’s very much a young 10-year-old who is just coming to his peak.”
She went on: “Goodtoknow ran a fantastic race when 13th in the Grand National and if we had ridden him differently, he could have been closer, but it was his first attempt over the fences and we didn’t knowhow he would take to them.
“He’s had an unlucky start to the season, he unseated at Wincanton then he ran well for two and a half miles at Aintree before pulling up and it transpired he had a foot infection after that race. You can almost put a line through the start of the campaign.
“We are looking to go back to Aintree and hopefully this will be his main prep race.
“Russe Blanc hasn’t won since this race, but he’s back down to 125 and I was very pleased with his seasonal reappearance at Carlisle. He was unlucky at Haydock but he ran quite well at Cheltenham last time.”
Bryony Frost is enjoying a landmark season, having ridden a first Grade One winner over the Christmas period, and Neil King is hoping Milansbar can feel the benefit of her 5lb claim.
Milansbar, along with Emperor’s Choice and On The Road, will be making a quick reappearance after failing to finish in the Welsh National last week.
King said: “We wanted to claim off him this time and Bryony is the claimer of the hour. She’s not been to sit on him, but I ride him out every day so he must be pretty straightforward.
“He’s run twice now in the Welsh National and things have just happened. I think he just got a bit outpaced last week and then sulked, but we will put the blinkers on this time and hope they help him focus.
“He ran in the race last year, but my horses were wrong all year and he was one of the worst affected, so you can put a line through that and we know on his day he’s a decent horse.”
Nigel Twiston-Davies will be double-handed with Cogry, who was pulled up in the Ladbrokes Trophy last time, being joined by Ballycross, fourth when Milansbar was third at Chepstow last month.
The trainer said: “I think Cogry is better on better ground, but he needs the run so we will give it a go.
“He pulled up in the Ladbrokes Trophy and it just happened all too quick for him there. This is longer and not such a hot race.
“He is definitely a Scottish National horse as he was second in that but if he wins this, he will go for the Grand National.
“Ballycross loves it soft and the distance so he will be running on at the end, but Cogry has the better form. I was delighted with his run at Chepstow last time out.”