UNIONISTE is ‘‘almost certain’’ to run in Saturday’s Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster as long as the ground does not dry up dramatically.
Trainer Paul Nicholls has all his options covered for the valuable three-mile handicap, with four of the 25 remaining possibles hailing from his Ditcheat yard.
Sam Winner is Nicholls’ other major contender but he is more likely to head to Newbury on Betfair Hurdle day next month.
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Unioniste was well beaten in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas but had previously won at Aintree, beating Wishfull Thinking.
‘‘If the ground stays roughly as it is, and there’s a mixed forecast, Unioniste is almost certain to run and I’ll find something else for Sam Winner in a fortnight, possibly Newbury,’’ said Nicholls.
‘‘I’ve just covered all our options by leaving them all in, it can dry up relatively quickly there and you never know what the weather is going to do.
‘‘But my idea is to run Unioniste with Harry (Derham) taking 5lb off and then we’ll run Rocky Creek in the Argento at Cheltenham.
‘‘We might also run Harry The Viking and Pacha Du Polder but both of those are weather dependent.’’ Nicholls’ trainers’ championship rival Nicky Henderson relies solely on Roberto Goldback.
Donald McCain has two to choose from in Kruzhlinin and Our Mick. Emma Lavelle could also be double-handed with Gullinbursti and Court By Surprise.
Keith Reveley’s Night In Milan was a winner on Town Moor recently, while last year’s Grand National hero Auroras Encore could turn out again for trainer Sue Smith.
Other leading contenders include Dr Richard Newland’s Mart Lane, the Dan Skeltontrained Baile Anrai, who is set to carry a feather weight of 10st, and Malcolm Jefferson’s Attaglance.
Walkon has been given the option by Alan King, while Time For Rupert could return to fences after trying his hand over hurdles last time out.
The going on the chase track at Doncaster is currently soft, good to soft in places.