All eyes on 'Optic before Chepstow

NIGEL Twiston-Davies is keeping his fingers crossed Ballyoptic recovers from a bruised shoulder in time to contest the Coral Welsh Grand National at Chepstow later this month.

The eight-year-old, who is general 12-1 shot for the marathon event, sustained the setback when suffering a mid-race fall in the Becher Chase at Aintree on his first start over the Grand National fences.

“Ballyoptic was going really well until he fell, I couldn’t have been more pleased,” said Twiston-Davies.

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“He has just bruised a shoulder.

“I’ve no idea how long it will keep him out for, it will just depend on how the horse comes along.

“Hopefully he will be back for the Welsh National. Aintree will be his real target in April, as he stays and normally jumps well.”

Twiston-Davies feels 2017 Becher winner Blaklion, who beat just one home in his bid for back-to-back victories in the three-and-a-quarter-mile prize at the weekend, needs his mark to be revised.

Twiston-Davies said: “Blaklion was a little disappointing, but he jumped well again. I was devastated he only came down 1lb in the weights.

“He went up 8lb for winning it last year, so why has he not come down a bit more in the weights this year?

“He won by nine lengths last year, but the second (The Last Samuri) and third (Highland Lodge) have done nothing since.

“Basically he wants to be reassessed, but that is up to the handicappers.”

Meanwhile Josies Orders today bids for a fifth Cheltenham win in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase for Enda Bolger.

The 10-year-old was a game victor at the November meeting from Fact Of The Matter, who takes him on again.

Cross-country king Bolger also runs the eight-year-old My Hometown, a winner over the Punchestown banks course last time out.

But it is Josies Orders, ridden by Mark Walsh, who is the undoubted first string in a race that saw 2018 Grand National hero Tiger Roll not declared by Gordon Elliott.

“We know what we’re going to get with Josies, I hope,” said Bolger.

“He tends to run his race whatever. With Tiger Roll not running, the weights have gone up and he meets the second horse from the last day on near enough the same terms.

“My Hometown won very well at Punchestown, but this is a different level – he’s in against much better horses like Josies and Bless The Wings.”

Willie Mullins has raised the possibility of Laurina taking on Buveur D’Air in the Unibet Christmas Hurdle at Kempton Park.

The mare – second-favourite behind Buveur D’Air for the Champion Hurdle – had been in line to run in the International Hurdle at Cheltenham tomorrow.

But Ireland’s champion trainer feels the ground is currently too quick.

The same reason also ruled her out of an intended run at Ascot earlier in the campaign, and with Christmas on the horizon, Mullins is having to consider all possibilities.

Laurina also has options at Leopardstown at Cheltenham over the festive period.

Middleham trainer Julia Brooke enjoyed handicap hurdle success when Copt Hill won at Newcastle under Ross Chapman, one of this season’s leading conditional riders.