mr moonshine left to wait 
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SUE Smith’s Mr Moonshine will continue his Crabbie’s Grand National build-up if Warwick beats the elements.

Like Newbury, the Midlands track needs to survive a 7am inspection after further rain was forcecast to fall last night on already saturated ground.

However High Eldwick-based Smith believes the two-and-a-half-mile handicap chase could play to the strengths of Mr Moonshine following the horse’s impressive win at Musselburgh on New Year’s Day.

“The horse goes there in good form, weather permitting,” said Smith. “It’s the same trip as the last race, though the ground will be a bit heavier.”

Pulled up in last year’s National, Mr Moonshine was an eyecatching third in the Becher Chase over Aintree’s unique fences at the beginning of December.

Together with stablemate Vintage Star, he holds an entry in this year’s National and the size of his task will become clearer on Tuesday when the weights are published.

As for the 2013 winner Auroras Encore who was retired after undergoing surgery for a career-ending leg injury, Smith reported the horse to be “happy and contented” as he continues his recovery.

Sam Winner will try to secure his place in next month’s RSA Chase with victory in the IJF 50th Anniversary Novices’ Chase at Newbury.

Paul Nicholls’s charge was a disaster in his first spell over fences but has regained his confidence this season.

The trainer is also “excited” about Dodging Bullets as the Arkle candidate puts his credentials on the line in the Betfair Cash Out Chase, registered as the Game Spirit, at Newbury.

Bred by Frankie Dettori, he was a decent juvenile hurdler and finished fourth in the Triumph Hurdle behind John Quinn’s Countrywide Flame and then had a second season over timber last year but by the time of the spring festivals he had lost his form.

With his attentions switched to chasing this season he has looked a different proposition altogether, winning three in a row.

The prospect of testing conditions is a concern for Ampleforth-educated trainer Mouse Morris as the admirable First Lieutenant looks to secure a deserved return to the winner’s enclosure in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown tomorrow.

The Gigginstown House Stud-owned nine-year-old is Ireland’s leading contender for the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup and his rivals include the Nicholls-trained veteran Tidal Bay. “The ground would be a concern, but I suppose it’s the same for them all,” said Morris.