DAVID Pipe will monitor the weather before deciding where Vieux Lion Rouge will have his prep run for a third tilt at the Randox Health Grand National.
He intends to run the nine-year-old a week on Saturday in either the Betfred Grand National Trial at Haydock or the Keltbray Swinley Chase at Ascot.
Seventh in the 2016 National when ridden by North Yorkshire rider James Reveley, the staying chaser went one better in last year’s renewal under Pipe’s stable jockey Tom Scudamore.
However the horse has failed to feature in two starts this season after finishing down the field in both the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby on his return and most recently in the Becher Chase at Aintree won by Blaklion.
Pipe said: “Vieux Lion Rouge will possibly go back to Haydock for the Grand National Trial, which he won last year, although he will have an entry in the three-mile Listed handicap chase at Ascot on the same day. We will just see what the weather does.
“He didn’t jump with his usual fluency over the Aintree fences last time and he didn’t run up to his best that day. At least he has got a few pounds off his back. We will just see what weight he gets for the National next week now.”
A step up in both class and trip appear on the cards for Daklondike, who is three from five this season, in the Eider Chase at Newcastle on February 24.
Pipe added: “He is progressive and he has done well this season. He gives the impression he will get four miles, but you don’t know for sure until they go over it and it’s worth a try.”
Pipe – who is having a very quiet season by his high standards – saddles former Cheltenham Champion Bumper winner Moon Racer in tomorrow’s Betfair Hurdle at Newbury.
The 24-runner race, Europe’s most valuable handicap over hurdles, features two Yorkshire runners – John Quinn’s Project Bluebook and Northallerton farmer Peter Atkinson’s Irish Roe.
One of two horses trained by Atkinson and his wife Lucinda, Irish Roe runs a fortnight after finising a thrilling second to the rapidly improving Maria’s Benefit in the Mares Hurdle at Doncaster on Sky Bet Chase day.
Meanwhile, Maria’s Benefit is to resume training after being found to have heat in a knee following the Town Moor race.
Her objective is the Trull House Stud Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at next month’s Cheltenham Festival.
“I’ve just had the results from the vet. They are all happy with the knee,” said trainer Stuart Edmunds.
“There was a bit of heat in it, but they are happy for us to progress with the work and just keep icing the knee.
“Fundamentally she seems fine and her work will now increase ahead of Cheltenham.”
However smart hurdler Vinndication could miss Cheltenham – despite maintaining his 100 per cent record with an authoritative display in the Sidney Banks Memorial Novices’ Hurdle at Huntingdon.
After one bumper success and two triumphs over smaller obstacles, Vinndication took the step up to Listed company in his stride under regular jockey David Bass.
However, trainer Kim Bailey believes next month’s National Hunt Festival – the horse holds entries in two Grade One hurdle races – could come too soon and the hurly-burly potentially scupper the hurdler’s long-term prospects.
Bailey said: “He is still to me a complete baby. He was more switched on than he was last time.
“Even when he hit the front he didn’t know what to go and do. Logically, I would rather go to Aintree than Cheltenham, but I just need to see how he is.
“We are a month away from Cheltenham. I know where the owners would like to go, but I have got to look after the horse.
“At this time last year he was standing in his stable so he has come an awful long way in a short space of time. He is a good horse.
“He needed to learn and he needed to know what life was all about. He is a really good-action horse and I think he will be better on better ground.”