Mania planning Vintage performance
Ryan Mania believes Vintage Star, his mount in the Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock on Saturday, could one day be a Grand National horse.
The Trevor Hemmings-owned eight-year-old has always been highly regarded but has taken his form to a new level this season.
Winner of a decent graduation chase at Carlisle, he was second in the Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle and sixth in the Welsh National three weeks ago.
Mania feels Sue Smith's charge is still progressing, and if he does not end up at Aintree this season he might do next year.
"Some people felt he was disappointing in the Welsh National when he was sixth, but I thought he ran a cracker," said Mania, who tasted National glory in April with the Smith-trained Auroras Encore.
"He's still fairly inexperienced and that was his first real taste of a big handicap.
"There's more to come from him, I'm sure - I think there's a big race in him somewhere.
"He should have won at Newcastle, I was annoyed that day but the ground was far too quick, he couldn't jump off it and wouldn't let himself down.
"I think he could be a National horse one day, whether it's this year I don't know as it's never been discussed but that's the feel he gives me.
"He needs a cut in the ground and he'll certainly get that."
Paul Nicholls' The Minack has been off the track for 700 days but jockey Daryl Jacob has seen the same enthusiasm at home.
"I schooled him on Friday morning and he jumped nicely and feels fresh and well," said Jacob.
"I won a Badger Ales Trophy on him a few years ago so we know he's got the class but he's had an awful long time off.
"Saturday is about getting his confidence back and hopefully he'll run nicely."
Dr Richard Newland is having a good run of things of late and returns with Tommy Whittle winner Night Alliance, who is now 13lb higher, despite being out of the handicap
Newland said: "He is running from out of the handicap, but the ground should be in his favour.
"My cousin owns Vino Griego (top weight) and it's not very nice of him, I've told him, making us run from out of the weights!
"He seemed to like the track last time, so it is an obvious place for him to run and we're hoping he'll run a nice race."
Gary Moore trains Vino Griego who proved his stamina at Sandown last time out but faces a different task here giving weight all round.
"We had very few options left (before the Gold Cup), it was this or the Argento and that's not a handicap," said Moore.
"It's a tough race and he has to carry top weight, but it is a limited handicap so it's not like he's going to give lumps of weight away to the bottom-weighted horses," said Moore.
"It's a track he's never run at before, but I think it will suit him and the ground will suit him.
"Josh (son) will ride and take a valuable 3lb off which will help him. He's ridden him in a race and rides him at home a lot.
"It couldn't really be a more different race to last time. There were only three runners and the ground didn't suit Harry Topper, but he was very impressive the way he did it. He hardly got out of second gear really.
"He was always going to win from the Pond Fence as long as he jumped the last three well. I couldn't have been more pleased.
"He can be very good, but he can put the odd bad jump in, as he had done in his two runs before he ran at Sandown.
"I've no worries at all about his stamina."
Valoroso is 8lb 'wrong' at the weights but trainer Richard Woollacott has been swayed by the big prize.
"He's ever so well. It's a shame he's out of the handicap, but at the same time at his age we are limited to races where we can go and being a small yard we want to go for the big races so we are going to take our chance," he said.
"Hopefully he'll run well and we're looking forward to the day.
"He ran well at Kempton and looked to win everywhere apart from on the line. He came out of that as though he hadn't had a race. We hope he puts on a good show."
Evan Williams has nullified the 7lb Wychwoods Brook is wrong at the weights by putting up his conditional rider Conor Ring.
The trainer does not see his runner as a forlorn hope, as the trip and the ground should play to the strengths of the eight-year-old novice.
"He's wrong at the weights but Conor's 7lb claim puts him smack on his right weight. It's only 9st 11lb with Conor's claim," said the Llancarfan handler.
"I know he's only a novice and hasn't got a lot of experience, but I do like Wychwoods Brook. He's a horse that might end up going well in a nice race for us.
"He's in incredibly good form with himself and he's come out of that race (at Lingfield) the other day very well.
"It's a massive step up in grade and he is a horse that somewhere along the line in his life could end up winning a nice race.
"Wychwoods Brook wants heavy ground. He's a novice and we don't know where his mark is or where he will end up, but with 9st 11lb on that type of ground anything can happen and sometimes does.
"I'm 100 per cent certain he'll get the trip. I rode the dam (Miss Millbrook) to win various hunter chases over three miles plus, so there's no doubt about his stamina."