Alpha can be the Victor in Eider battle
The feature race of the day at Newcastle is the Eider Chase (2.55), and Alpha Victor looks to hold major claims in a wide open renewal of the 4m 1f contest.
The Bill Kinsey trained gelding did well last year, winning at Sedgefield and Bangor before putting in a career-best performance when a cracking second of 16 to Goulanes in the Midlands Grand National at Uttoxeter off a mark of 135.
Alpha Victor kept on well to be beaten 2 1/2 lengths by the well-treated winner, and the pair pulled 11 lengths clear of the field to give the form a solid look.
It was an effort which suggested the 10-year-old would be well up to winning a race of this nature, and he is now able to race off 2lb lower.
That gives Alpha Victor major claims at the weights, and the son of Old Vic looks to have been primed for this contest.
After being tenderly handled in two pipe-openers over fences at Carlisle, Alpha Victor looked to be coming to the boil nicely when switched back to the smaller obstacles last time out and finishing sceond of 12 to Join The Clan at Wetherby.
That run should have put Alpha Victor spot on for this, and with the in-form Peter Buchanan in the saddle everything looks in place for a big run.
There are plenty of dangers in a very competitive contest, and two that made my shortlist are previous winners Portrait King and Wyck Hill.
Portrait King is an out-and-out stayer trained in Ireland by Maurice Phelan and landed a massive gamble in the 2012 running when getting the better of a titanic battle with Posh Bird to score by three lengths.
The 10-year-old is now 9lb higher in the weights but comes into the race on the back of two cracking runs which suggest he is as good as ever.
After coming with a storming late run to beat Rogue Angel by 5 1/2 lengths at Punchestown, Portrait King posted a blinding effort last time out at the same venue when runner-up to the rapidly improving Embracing Change.
Portrait King was attempting to give the winner, who was completing a four-timer, 15lb and the form looks solid in the context of this contest.
Wyck Hill won the race 12 months ago in gritty fashion and looks to have been primed to defend his crown.
The David Bridgwater trained gelding comes into the race fresh having had just one run this season when runner-up in a novice hurdle at Chepstow, and there is little doubt the JP McManus owned 11-year-old has been laid out for this contest.
It’s a case of the further they go the better for Wyck Hill, and although 8lb higher in the weights this time around he has been competitive off his current mark of 141 in the past.